Acting Mayor Kim Janey on Tuesday named the executive director of Boston’s first Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, what she called a new era in rebuilding police and community relations, even as critics called on her to do more and live up to promises to reform a department once again engulfed in scandal.
Janey appointed Stephanie Everett, an attorney who runs her own private practice, to lead the new Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (OPAT), and committed $1 million to its operations under a new budget she will unveil Wednesday.
Creating the office was one of the key recommendations laid out six months ago by the Boston Police Reform Task Force, which then-mayor Martin J. Walsh commissioned in response to protests calling for police reform, amid a nationwide reckoning over systemic racism and abuse in policing.
“I’m committed to safety, healing and justice, in every Boston neighborhood,” Janey said. “That starts with trust. Transparency and accountability are foundational values when it comes to fostering trust.”
But while the OPAT was the task force’s signature recommendation, it was one of the few that had been implemented by Tuesday’s six-month deadline, which the task force established when it issued its report in October. A Globe inquiry found that other recommendations have not been enacted, including the creation of a list of zero-tolerance infractions for which an officer could be immediately terminated, and the development of a public dashboard to show individual officers’ internal affairs records.
And the diversity and inclusion policy that the task force recommended? It’s still in draft form.
Activists say the failure to adopt all of the task force’s recommendations, by the deadline, shows the need to keep pressure on police officials to take the recommendations seriously.
“Turn up the timetable; we want to see it done sooner rather than later,” said Jamarhl Crawford, a reform advocate who served on the task force. “We knew some things would have been more challenging [to implement] than others. But we certainly want to see the full implementation of our recommendations.”
Crawford and other advocates say the need to hold police more accountable and build a culture of transparency in the Boston Police Department is critical, at a time of greater scrutiny of police conduct.
One of Everett’s first tasks, Janey said, will be to investigate an internal affairs system that allowed the former head of the patrolmen’s union, Patrick Rose, to remain on the force for more than two decades even after finding an allegation that he sexually assaulted a minor in 1995 was credible. Rose now faces criminal charges that he molested other children.
Crawford said the disclosure of a possible police coverup of the Rose situation “speaks to the levels of corruption at all levels within the BPD.”
“You don’t want to believe these things, but now you see it,” he said.
At a news conference at City Hall Tuesday, Janey said she recognized the need to ensure “that this never happens again.”
She said the OPAT, which the City Council created by ordinance in December, will house and support a newly formed Civilian Review Board and an Internal Affairs Oversight Board.
Everett, who lives in Mattapan, worked in various roles in state government before starting her private practice. She’s also no stranger to the violence plaguing Boston’s streets: She was the spokeswoman for the family of Brandon D. Williams, a 32-year-old father who family members said was “senselessly” shot and killed in February. A Randolph man was charged.
“I have spent my entire career fighting to give voice to those who are underrepresented, and that’s exactly how I’ll approach my work as the Executive Director of OPAT,” Everett said in a statement.
Janey said the budget she will unveil Wednesday will also include new investments for police diversity efforts, scale back police overtime expenses, and support new housing programs for families traumatized by violence in their communities. The department also will conduct a pilot program to examine how officers respond to mental health crises.
“Today Boston begins a new chapter . . . a new era in police accountability and transparency,” Janey said.
Critics, though, said that Janey’s proposed Police Department budget — the drafting of which was one of her most significant actions since she took office — falls far short of the cuts in police spending that they have demanded, and that Janey herself called for a year ago.
The $400 million spending plan represents a modest reduction of just $4 million from last year’s budget and is $21 million below the actual amount of money the department will spend this year. (The Police Department is one of the few in the city that can spend more than budgeted, as it did on overtime pay this year.)
Though Janey’s proposal represents a reduction, the recommendation is far below the 10 percent cut Janey advocated for last year as a city councilor, amid a host of other policing changes she supported.
Janey defended her budget proposal during a news conference Thursday, arguing that because 10 percent of Boston’s police officers are currently out on sick leave, any further cuts would be too deep.
“This budget moving forward does call for an almost 5 percent cut; to do much deeper than that would only exacerbate the overtime that people seek to eliminate,” she said.
In this fiscal year, which ends June 30, police are projected to spend $65 million on overtime, well beyond the budgeted amount of $48 million; Janey has proposed $43 million for overtime next year.
The budget announcement came just days after Larry Calderone, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Union, said he would like to see the department hire 400 to 500 more officers over the next two to three years. Adding staff, he said, would curb overtime spending, boost morale, and create a more rested, happier department.
“We’re continued to be asked to do more with less, and it’s unacceptable,” he said.
Critics have pushed for a deeper and systemic overhaul of policing.
“These are our taxpayer dollars, and people across the city are questioning their return on investments,” City Councilor Julia Mejia said in a statement. “We learned in 2018 that Boston had the widest gap in arrest rates for white and black homicide victims.”
She continued, “A four million reduction in the BPD budget still doesn’t address the issues advocates are fighting for like youth jobs, mental health and trauma-informed practices, mental health workers, and other services that have a proven track record of addressing violence in our streets.”
Brock Satter, an organizer with Mass Action Against Police Brutality, called the police budget plan a “reflection that any kind of a gesture toward defunding the police budget was never really serious from either the Walsh administration or his replacement.”
“It’s not really aimed at solving the problem, just changing the perception,” he said.
Michael Cox, executive director of Black and Pink Massachusetts, a prison-abolition organization that serves the LGBT community and people living with HIV, said he was “deeply disappointed” by Janey’s police budget. His organization, he said, was hoping for a 10 percent cut.
“We had high hopes for her,” Cox said. “Now all of sudden she’s mayor and it seems her calculus has changed, and we hope she can revisit that and meet the will of the people.”
Milton J. Valencia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia and on Instagram @miltonvalencia617. Danny McDonald can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.