Frustrated by Boston police’s failure to show up and answer questions at a Tuesday public hearing, a Boston city councilor is pushing for information about an investigation into reports that an officer from the city’s force may have participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C.
Andrea Campbell announced her intention to file a formal request with the police department Tuesday during a virtual hearing on police reform. Campbell, who is one of three councilors running for mayor, will seek “documents on the status of the department’s investigation, documents on any related disciplinary action, and a date by which the public expect a report of the findings of this investigation.”
During Tuesday’s hearing, Campbell expressed frustration that no representatives from Boston police were present to discuss the implementation of local and statewide police reform or to answer questions she had about the Capitol probe.
A top Boston police official did submit a letter of written testimony for the hearing, saying that department leaders are “rethinking the role of policing in general – seeking to shift some current responsibilities that do not require police response to other agencies for a civilian response.”
For Campbell, the letter, which did not mention the probe into the Capitol attack, did not suffice.
“I refuse to accept that because we don’t currently have a permanent police Commissioner that no one from the department or Administration is capable of answering questions today,” said Campbell in a statement. “I refuse to accept that Bostonians have to wait for answers and accountability about if a Boston Police Officer participated in a violent, white supremacist attack on our nation’s Capitol, and whether they are still patrolling our streets.”
Citing the ongoing investigation, a Boston police spokesman declined to comment on the matter Tuesday.
Earlier this year, Boston police said they were investigating whether one of their officers took part in the demonstration and ensuing violence, during which angry supporters of former president Donald Trump breached and ransacked the US Capitol, and five people died. The department also said it was examining social media on which the unnamed officer allegedly threatened Mike Pence, the vice president at the time.
Campbell, as well as Councilors Julia Mejia and Michelle Wu — another mayoral candidate — have said any city employee who was part of the attack on the Capitol should be fired.
Campbell’s comments come at a time when the department’s leadership is in flux. Last month, Commissioner Dennis White was placed on leave two days after his promotion to the city’s top cop amid the revelation of allegations that White had pushed and threatened to shoot his then-wife, also a police officer, 22 years earlier. The city hired an outside attorney, Tamsin Kaplan, to conduct an investigation into the matter, which is ongoing. Superintendent-in-Chief Gregory Long is acting commissioner while that probe continues.
In a letter to Campbell, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, Boston Police Superintendent Jeffrey Walcott submitted written testimony for Tuesday’s hearing that addressed the implementation of police reforms, acknowledging that “many unanswered questions remain.”
Earlier this year, Mayor Martin J. Walsh signed an ordinance creating a new, independent city watchdog that will have the authority to investigate officer misconduct. Additionally, Governor Charlie Baker in December signed a police reform bill into law that for the first time creates a system for certifying police officers in Massachusetts and gives a new civilian-led panel the ability to revoke their licenses for misconduct.
According to Walcott, internal strategy meetings have taken place on a weekly basis since Baker signed the state police reform bill into law. Some of the reforms took effect on Dec. 31, while others take effect on July 1.
“There are serious resource implications to these changes, and many unanswered questions,” said Walcott. “Many of the unanswered questions are related to the certification/ de-certification process and how it will impact our recruitment and hiring process, and how suspensions will impact staffing levels and budget.”
A city task force has also made a slate of police reform recommendations, including that the department improve racial equity training. Given that, the department’s police academy has quadrupled the number of hours recruits are taught its “fair and impartial policing curriculum,” which includes implicit bias and procedural justice training, Walcott said.
Walcott said police brass are also mulling strategies that include encouraging officers to disengage and walk away from certain situations, based on a series of criteria under development. The department also is considering creating a non-emergency mental health civilian response team that could be contacted by a new three digit number, something that would require city agency to take on that responsibility or budget, among other measures.