Residents voted in favor of an outside review of the Canton Police Department during a special Town Meeting on Monday night, as controversy continues to swirl around a murder investigation in the town.
The article passed 903-800 during a nearly four-hour meeting that drew a large and boisterous crowd. It calls for the town’s procurement officer or a designee “to proceed with an administrative, policy, procedures and compliance review” of the department “to be conducted by an independent consulting firm,” according to a video stream of the meeting.
The town’s Select Board “has already indicated its intent to proceed with review of the police department,” Finance Committee Chair Cindy Thomas said during the meeting.
The vote came amid allegations of police corruption in Canton related to the investigation into the 2022 death of Boston police Officer John O’Keefe, whose girlfriend, Karen Read, has been indicted by a Norfolk County grand jury on charges of murder, manslaughter while operating under the influence of alcohol, and leaving the scene of personal injury and death.
Read’s attorneys insist that she is innocent and allege police engaged in a coverup of O’Keefe’s killing. In response, Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey, whose office is prosecuting the Read case, issued an unusual video rebuttal, condemning those “absolutely baseless” allegations.
“It should be an outrage to any decent person — and it needs to stop,” said Morrissey, who released a three-page transcript of the statement in August along with the video. “Innuendo is not evidence. False narratives are not evidence.”
Conspiracy theories about the case have been amplified by the Turtleboy website, whose primary author, Aidan Kearney, was charged last month by a special prosecutor for allegedly harassing multiple witnesses in the Read case. Kearny has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The article that passed in Canton on Monday night also establishes a committee consisting of the procurement officer or a designee, two members designated by the residents who petitioned for the motion, and two members of the community “at large” as nominated or selected by the procurement officer.
A maximum cost of $200,000 is set for the review, according to the approved motion, and a public report on the “process and outcome of the procurement” will be available once the committee has hired an outside investigator.
The motion had 307 petitioners, according to a warrant posted online for Monday’s special meeting. The phrasing of the motion was changed from the posted warrant to a new version presented by the town’s financial committee after discussion with petitioners, which was approved by the petitioners and later chosen by voters.
Three rooms in Canton High School were allocated for the meeting: the auditorium for only Canton registered voters, the cafeteria for auditorium overflow, and the gymnasium for residents not from Canton and those not registered to vote, according to a layout posted on the town’s website. A separate area was also available for those who wanted to “rally.”
Time allotted for public comment often turned contentious. Many shouts, boos, or yells from the crowd led to gavel bangs and calls for “order.”
Some who were in favor of the article said they support the police but still called for an independent review. Some people opposing the measure said what it proposed was already covered by current procedures.
Other motions included in the warrant were withdrawn without prejudice. A motion to move annual municipal elections to November failed.