“My administration is doubling down on our work to stand up the Boston Office of Police Accountability and Transparency.”
We can spend all week reminding readers about the many times that politicians dropped the ball on the issue of police reform, but that’s not what I’m here to address. Because if the past year has seen unprecedented changes on this front, with measures passing at the state level which will to some extent keep law enforcement officers in check and cities also caving to much public pressure, then these past few days have been a watershed moment.
Of course, it took for the Boston Globe to show that the Boston Police Department treated an accused child molester, former Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (BPPA) President Patrick Rose, better than it has innumerable law-abiding citizens over the years, not to mention non-law abiding ones, since he was one of their own. Nevertheless, whatever it took, more sharp words and demands than usual are whizzing through Government Center. We’ll see how much of the rhetoric spills onto the action side, but it’s clear that hopefuls and current officials alike see this as a good time to make reforms stick. Since, you know, everybody is now aware that the BPD protected a guy like Rose. At this point, you’d have to have a blue stripe tattooed on your eyeballs to remain blind to the turpitude.
As I noted on Monday, one day after the latest in the Rose saga broke, by that point pols including at large City Councilor Michelle Wu, who is also running for mayor, had already spoken up. We’ve also heard from mayoral candidate John Barros, who said in a media statement, “This is a deeply disturbing case, especially given that the accused was the president of the Boston police union and an officer of the law charged with keeping people safe. The current administration should release the investigation records and the internal affairs records in a way that protects the identities of the victims.”
New Boston Mayor Kim Janey isn’t holding back either. Not that she did as a councilor. First, there’s her official statement on the Rose matter:
I have instructed the City’s Law Department, as counsel for the Boston Police Department, to immediately review former police officer Patrick Rose’s internal affairs file. In keeping with the law, any information that could compromise the identities of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence must be redacted. However, we have an equally compelling obligation to ensure transparency with the public because withholding information only serves to erode the public’s trust.
I have asked that the review and redaction happen as quickly as possible so that the file can be released to the public.
It is baffling that officer Rose was allowed to remain on the force for over two decades and ultimately led the patrolmen’s union. I was deeply disturbed to learn that there was no effort to prevent Rose from coming into contact with other minors after such serious charges were found to be credible by BPD’s own internal affairs probe of the original allegations in 1995.
Transparency and accountability are foundational values when it comes to fostering public trust, and this is especially true for law enforcement. That is exactly why my administration is doubling down on our work to implement police reform and to stand up Boston’s Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (OPAT). OPAT will have the authority to review all internal affairs cases, in addition to holding subpoena power to compel the release of records and enhance accountability when necessary.
We are in the process of finalizing an offer to hire an executive director to lead the critical work of OPAT, and our upcoming budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2022 includes significant funding to successfully launch this office. I look forward to announcing the executive director of OPAT in the coming days, and we will outline our plan for funding and resources to support the establishment of OPAT when we release our FY22 budget proposal on Wednesday.
Janey also appointed attorney Stephanie Everett to serve as the first-ever executive director of the newly created Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (OPAT). This isn’t some new nonsense thing dreamt up overnight; rather, the OPAT came after several years of input from stakeholders and activists. We will be following their progress closely. For now, I’m going to paste the whole press release from the city below. Months and years from now, when it comes time to evaluate how well these reforms have gone, it will come in handy:
OPAT, the signature recommendation of the Boston Police Reform Task Force, creates a single point of public access to a new standard in police accountability and community oversight. Everett’s office will house and support the newly created Civilian Review Board and the Internal Affairs Oversight Panel, which strengthens the existing Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel. OPAT collectively holds subpoena power for the review board and oversight panel. Everett will begin her role as Executive Director of OPAT on April 27.
“As Mayor, I’m committed to safety, healing and justice, in every Boston neighborhood,” said Mayor Janey. “That starts with trust. Transparency and accountability are foundational values when it comes to fostering trust. This is especially true for law enforcement. That’s why my administration is doubling down on our work to stand up the Boston Office of Police Accountability and Transparency. And today, I’m proud to announce its first leader, attorney Stephanie Everett, as Executive Director of the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency.”
Joined at the event by Superintendent-in-Chief Greg Long of the Boston Police Department, Mayor Janey highlighted that her budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, which will be presented to the Boston City Council at an event tomorrow morning, includes a $1 million investment to establish OPAT. Everett, who will report directly to Mayor Janey in her new role, will be responsible for hiring and managing a nine-member staff to help carry out the work of the Civilian Review Board and Internal Affairs Oversight Panel. In addition to staffing, the proposed funding in the fiscal year 2022 budget will be used for technology support to create public safety dashboards and to address other technical needs of OPAT.
“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,” said Everett. “I have tremendous respect for our police officers who carry out their duties with integrity, compassion and empathy for the people they serve. Ensuring that those values are the standard across the entire force and that any misconduct is brought to light and handled appropriately is OPAT’s charge. I look forward to working with Mayor Janey, the Boston Police and the community to bring about necessary reforms and enhance public trust and confidence.”
One of OPAT’s first tasks will be to conduct a review of disgraced former Boston Police Officer Patrick Rose’s internal affairs files from 1995. Despite criminal charges being dropped at the time, a BPD internal affairs investigation found credible evidence that Rose had sexually assaulted a 12-year-old child. However, it is unclear whether Rose faced any discipline as a result of the internal findings, and he was allowed to remain on the force for over two decades, eventually becoming the president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association. OPAT’s review of the matter is intended to uncover and remedy shortcomings in BPD’s internal affairs process so that such egregious errors are prevented in the future.
“I was heartbroken and angry to learn there was no effort to keep Rose from coming into contact with minors after serious charges were found credible by BPD’s own internal affairs probe in 1995,” said Mayor Janey. “The likes of Patrick Rose will not be protected on my watch, and those who are complicit in abuses of power will be held to account.”
Everett enters her new role with broad experience as a lawyer and community advocate. Prior to practicing law, Everett devoted her professional career to public service and ensuring equal access to state and local resources, especially for underserved communities. Her past roles include serving as chief of staff at the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, deputy chief of staff to State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, and manager for public safety at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. Everett has been recognized by Super Lawyers as a rising star and by Lawyers Weekly as a Top Woman of Law. She resides in Mattapan with her husband and children.