Boston mayor announces police reform recommendations for Boston Police Department

BOSTON — After four months of working with a new task force, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced an action plan for police reform Tuesday.

“At a time of national turmoil, Boston will offer a model of how to come together and move forward by achieving racial justice in our country,” said Mayor Walsh. “These are bold steps, they will mark a new era in Boston in police practices and community relations.”

The task force released the following recommendations:

  • Create an independent Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (“OPAT”) with full investigatory and subpoena power, i.e. the ability to call witnesses and to compel the discovery of documents.
  • Formalize and expand the BPD’s commitment to diversity and inclusion through the creation of a Diversity & Inclusion unit.
  • Expand the BPD’s adoption of the body-worn camera program and continue to ban the use of biometrics and facial recognition software.
  • Enhance the BPD’s Use of Force policies (Rule 303, Rule 303A, Rule 303B, Rule 304) so that they articulate clear and enforceable disciplinary code of consequences for violations and infractions and hold the BPD publicly accountable for the violation of these policies.
  • Adopt practices that maximize accountability, transparency and public access to the BPD.

The full recommendations are available on the city’s website here, and have been translated into five languages.

“If you’re an officer, a sworn officer in the Boston Police Department, there’s no reason for you to come in front of this board as long as you do your job the way that 99.9% of our police officers do their job in Boston,” said Mayor Walsh.

The ACLU of Massachusetts responded to these police reform recommendations Tuesday.

“The ACLU commends Mayor Walsh and the Boston Police Reform Task Force for setting forth policies to protect the public from violent policing and to hold police accountable through increased transparency,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “But as we said when the recommendations were first proposed, it remains to be seen whether the policies will be implemented over likely objections from police unions, and how much it will inflate the police department’s already enormous budget. Policymakers' work has only just begun; the Mayor must enact and enforce these recommendations, and the state legislature must pass legislation to reform policing across Massachusetts.”

The city’s task force agrees that this is only the beginning.

“This is accomplished with a deep understanding and acknowledgement that it’s not enough to say that racism will not be tolerated,” said Tanisha Sullivan, president of the NAACP Boston Branch. “We must actively, intentionally, and consistently work to make sure it has no place or space to take root.”

In terms of how much these changes will cost, the task force says they’ll begin by restructuring BPD with the resources they already have and then go from there to see what additional funding may be needed to make these changes.