Updated at 1:52 p.m.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh signed an ordinance Monday creating a new Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, implementing a key recommendation of the police reform task force he convened last year after a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota killed George Floyd.
“What we’re doing today is adding accountability,” Walsh said. “Whether it’s in training, whether it’s in hiring, whether it’s in diversity, whether it’s in police misconduct, we want to make sure we do everything we can [so] that people have the full faith and trust in the Boston Police Department.”
The new office, which is frequently referred to as OPAT, includes a civilian review board that will investigate complaints from the public, an investigatory arm that will examine internal affairs cases and an administrative arm that will facilitate their efforts.
While the new office has subpoena power — a longstanding goal of many advocates — it's not quite as powerful as some had hoped. In July, Boston City Councilors Ricardo Arroyo, Andrea Campbell and Julia Mejia filed a proposal that would have required Boston’s police commissioner to comply with the civilian review board’s findings.
In December, the council backed a compromise between its proposal and the one made by the police reform task force in November. That compromise version, which Walsh signed Monday, requires that the police commissioner provide an explanation if he rejects the civilian review board’s findings.
Walsh, who has still not committed to seeking a third term this year, in 2020 repeatedly stressed his commitment to racial equity and invoked his efforts in that area Monday.
“How do we deal with systemic racism, and change the systems that systemic racism [exacerbates]?" Walsh said. “We declared racism a public-health crisis. … We also, prior to that, had put together a task force to look at health inequities due to COVID-19.”
In his remarks, which he made from a desk in his City Hall office, Walsh cast OPAT not as a way to address concerns about the behavior of some Boston police officers, but as a way to make an excellent police department better.
“We have the best police department in the country, and there’s no reason why anyone should be fearful of what we’re doing today,” Walsh said.
In a statement, Campbell, who is running for mayor, called OPAT "a win for our City and a major step towards eliminating racial disparities in our policing system," adding: "Ultimately, credit goes to the advocates, including many on the Police Reform Task Force, who kept this conversation going for decades."
Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, who is also running for mayor, released a statement as well. In it, she called the signing of the ordinance "an important step," and said she "look[s] forward to continuing to push for urgent action to transform our systems of public safety and public health for racial justice and equity."