Wu pushes police reform in Boston, police push for Work and Family Mobility Act on Beacon Hill
We are trying to be fair to the still-new-ish mayor, Michelle Wu. That means waiting and watching the moves made by her administration, carefully assessing to the best of our ability, interviewing stakeholders, and then, eventually, singing praise where it’s in order and breathing fire when situations call for criticism.
And no, we’re not making an exception right now. It’s still too soon to weigh in on many of the big issues. Especially police reform, since Wu has that whole added extra element of having to deal with a department that aggressively campaigned against her and which we imagine isn’t playing very nicely. With that said, let’s catch up on what the mayor is already doing on this front.
There has been slow-moving progress (if you want to call it that) on municipal police reform since Black Lives Matter protests forced the former administration of Mayor Marty Walsh to make some kind of movement, however superficial. Boston actually got down to business in 2020, including with an ordinance establishing an Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (OPAT). It all seemed very promising, as the inclusion of both a Civilian Review Board (CRB) and Internal Affairs Oversight Panel (IAOP) within OPAT is unprecedented in these parts. But Boston being Boston, it’s not exactly like the thing was up and running right away and forcing dirty cops into early retirement. As far as we can tell, there’s been very little news about OPAT since the initial press releases. Until now …
So along comes the new mayor, and so far she appears to be on top of this. Wu already reappointed Stephanie Everett as executive director of OPAT, and has now even fully staffed CRB and IAOP.
“Every resident, in every corner of every neighborhood in our city deserves to feel safe in the knowledge that our Police Department will uphold its responsibility to serve and protect them. That requires building trust—trust that begins and ends with our communities,” Wu said in a media release. “With our search for a new Police Commissioner underway and our appointees to the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency boards in place, we are ready to transform the structures of public safety and health to build community in Boston.”
“I am grateful to Mayor Wu for the opportunity to serve as Chair to help facilitate an opportunity for Boston residents to seek an independent review when they feel they’ve been wronged by the Boston Police Department,” CRB Chair Peter Alvarez added. “Through the work of the Civilian Review Board, I look forward to building trust within our communities to enhance safety throughout our neighborhoods.”
We’ll be watching.
Just as we were hating on the cops, we got word from the Driving Families Forward Coalition and Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) about “21 Mass law enforcement leaders stand(ing) up for the Work and Family Mobility Act,” “a bill that would allow all qualified Bay State residents to apply for a standard state driver’s license, regardless of their immigration status.”
Earlier this month, “police chiefs and sheriffs convened on Zoom to express support and answer questions from legislators and media,” with some even saying stuff you rarely hear from the law enforcement sector, like, “Certainly many, many, many of these individuals contribute to the successes of our respective communities across the state—so we stand behind this bill.” That one came from Chelsea Chief of Police Bryan Kyes, who added, “We really deem it to be incredibly important.”
According to the Driving Families Forward Coalition, “Mostly, the officers spoke from their own experience about the fear, anxiety and distrust that grips immigrant communities under the current licensing law. Adopting the Work and Family Mobility Act would clear confusion and tension from routine traffic stops and minor accidents, and allow the police to positively identify more motorists and others.”
“We’ve all been in those situations where we’ve had these car stops,” Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper added. “We’ve been standing on the side of the road, in the middle of the night, someone in a car, sometimes with a language barrier…. We don’t want to have car stops with this heightened stress, where it’s completely unnecessary…. If we don’t have [someone’s identity], it just makes our job really challenging.”
The bill is “currently awaiting action by the legislature’s transportation committee,” and according to advocates “has garnered more support this session than ever, both inside the State House and out, positioning Massachusetts to become the 17th state to remove immigration status as a barrier for tens of thousands of residents who need to drive to work, to medical appointments, and to school.”
With our state’s top law-enforcement official, Attorney General Maura Healey, running for governor on the blue side and Trump guy Geoff Diehl seeking the GOP nom, we’re sure to be reminded over and over of just how little the latter team actually cares about supporting police and prosecutors. Diehl is the kind of turd who likely thanks cops for their service when he sees them at Home Depot, but you just wait for what he has to say about Healey should they end up facing off against each other, or even sooner.
In the meantime, it’s the AG who is getting jabs in. Last week, Healey pounced on Diehl for tapping Trump 2016 campaign honcho Corey Lewandowski for a senior advisor spot.
“Lewandowski’s new role in Geoff Diehl’s campaign tells us all we need to know about the kind of Governor he would be,” the Healey campaign said in an entirely unprovoked statement. “It is even clearer that Mr. Diehl’s agenda is fueled by hate and division, and will take us backwards on climate, equality, racial justice, and economic growth. There is much at stake in this election, and I am committed to being a Governor who brings people together instead of further dividing us, and ushers in positive change for our state. The contrast could not be more stark.”
This. Is. Going. To. Get. Interesting. Stay tuned.