Stephanie Everett has yet to get a city e-mail address, choose her staff, or receive her first paycheck. But she already has one of the toughest assignments in Boston City Hall.
The Mattapan lawyer and former state government official was tapped earlier this month to become the executive director of the city’s Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, an office forged amid calls for racial justice after George Floyd’s murder last year by a Minneapolis police officer.
But the job has taken on new prominence and more urgency since a Globe investigation revealed that former Boston patrolman and union leader Patrick M. Rose Sr. was allowed to stay on the force despite credible accusations of sexually abusing a child in 1995. It will now be Everett’s job to figure out what went wrong — and how to fix it.
Acting mayor Kim Janey’s demand for an independent review — due in Everett’s first 45 days on the job — means one of the executive director’s first tasks will be deconstructing a decades-old child abuse case and challenging the department, its unions, and the leadership of former police commissioner Paul F. Evans, who has defended his actions in returning Rose to patrol duty. At the time, the 12-year-old victim stopped cooperating with the investigation.
“It’s almost like the 10 tasks of Hercules on your first day,” said community activist Jamarhl Crawford, who served on the Boston Police Reform Task Force that recommended creating the new office last year. “This is a crazy job for anybody.”
Everett, who starts May 3, is winding down her private practice and referred all questions to Janey’s press office.
Local officials have clamored for more answers in the Rose case, after the Globe reported earlier this month that the department let Rose keep his badge and continue to interact with children, despite an internal investigation that concluded that he probably committed a crime. State child welfare investigators also believed there was evidence in 1995 that Rose had abused a child, even though a criminal complaint filed against Rose was dropped.
Rose stayed in the department for more than two decades and went on to lead its largest union before he retired in 2018. He was arrested last August and was charged with 33 counts of abusing six children over decades. He remains in jail awaiting trial and has pleaded not guilty.
Everett — who will be the office’s first employee — will lead a review of the internal affairs process in Rose’s case, while creating a new agency with a $1 million annual budget commitment from Janey.
Eventually, Everett will have two other commissioners, also appointed by the mayor, to help her oversee OPAT. But for now she is alone. Everett will also be responsible for hiring a nine-person staff under Janey’s proposed budget, said Nick Martin, Janey’s spokesman.
Though the commission has subpoena power, Everett cannot issue them unilaterally; an order would require a two-thirds vote from all three commissioners. Martin said Everett had not discussed using subpoenas in early conversations about her impending review. She will have access to Rose’s full 105-page internal affairs file, rather than the 13 pages that Janey’s office released last week, he added.
The files themselves have become a flashpoint in the mayoral race. Janey, who is running for a full term in this fall’s election, initially said she would release the files, but eventually determined that most of the files should be withheld to protect the victim’s privacy. But other mayoral candidates have called for the full release of the files — with victims’ names and identifying information redacted — or an external investigation done by the US Attorney’s Office instead.
Among those calling for the full release of the files: Evans, who served as police commissioner from 1994 to 2003.
Evans, who was informed of Rose’s case in 1996, defended his actions in a joint statement with Ann Marie Doherty, the former BPD superintendent who oversaw internal affairs at the time, saying “everything that could be done by the Boston Police Department was done in this matter to hold Rose accountable.”
His time as Boston’s top cop was marked by plummeting rates of homicide and other violent crimes, a period some have called the “Boston Miracle.” But Everett’s review of Evans’s actions could challenge that widely hailed public record, some observers said.
The review will also signal how the new office might approach its oversight work — and what challenges it will face.
“I’m sure the first thing that’s going to happen is going to be pushback from the union and what the city of Boston can do,” said civil rights attorney Howard Friedman, who has tried several cases against Boston police. “It seems to me hard at this point for the union to say, as their president did recently, that there are problems in other departments but not ours.”
Everett has held various legislative and state government roles, and briefly ran for a seat in the state Legislature, before opening up her private practice. Her legal work and strong community ties give her a broader perspective, said Marie St. Fleur, a former state representative and police reform task force member.
“She understands the procedural nature of the work that the police have to do,” said St. Fleur, who was not involved in Everett’s selection and does not know Everett personally. “The fact we have someone who may be able to look [at] justice through a wider lens might be very good for this position.”
Boston is not alone in trying to establish more police accountability through civilian boards. Other efforts to implement civilian oversight have relied heavily on the strength of the leadership at the oversight agencies, said police accountability expert Mary Howell, who was directly involved in reforms in New Orleans.
“Like most reforms, it was almost completely dependent on who was at the top,” she said. “If you’re trying to set up external oversight of internal affairs operations or you’re setting up parallel tracks for investigations of complaints and wrongdoing, whatever entity you set up needs power and independence.”
St. Fleur said Everett’s work should happen in tandem with other recommendations from the task force, which have been inching forward after the departure of former mayor Martin J. Walsh and the suspension of Police Commissioner Dennis White after a 1999 domestic abuse allegation.
“I don’t think this [job] is hers alone; it’s not simply a Stephanie Everett task,” said St. Fleur. “The issue of police reform and justice is actually the whole government’s.... Hopefully at City Hall, they’re having a conversation about what that looks like.”
Dugan Arnett of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Elizabeth Koh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @elizabethrkoh.