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Janey discusses police reforms, COVID

Avery Bleichfeld
Janey discusses police reforms, COVID
Mayor Kim Janey speaks during a press conference regarding COVID-19 and police accountability and transparency. PHOTO: John Wilcox, Mayor’s Office

Under new recommendations, the Boston Police Department (BPD) would be required to notify oversight agencies if criminal charges are brought against a Boston police officer, acting Mayor Kim Janey said at a press conference last Thursday.

The recommendation, one of three announced, would require Massachusetts’ Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST Commission) and the city’s recently formed Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (OPAT) to be notified if BPD’s Internal Affairs Division (IAD) receives information from the court, a supervising officer or other credible source that a BPD officer is charged with breaking the law.

The other two recommendations aim to increase timeliness and accountability of BPD response to criminal charges. The first would recommend that BPD’s Bureau of Professional Standards seek to interview witnesses within 48 hours of receiving notification. The second would make discipline resulting from an IAD investigation visible and predictable using a set of guidelines currently being drafted by the police commissioner.

The recommendations come as part of a review stemming from allegations of child molestation against Patrick Rose, a retired Boston police officer who also served as head of the police patrolman’s union. Rose was charged in 1995, but the charges were dismissed. He faced new charges in August 2020, including multiple counts of indecent assault on a child under 14.

“In 2021 we have an obligation to ensure this never happens again,” Janey said. “We must implement the 2020 recommendations offered by Wayne Budd and the police reform task force members and continue to establish OPAT and its public boards with urgency.”

For Andrea Campbell, city councilor for District 4 and mayoral candidate, the recommendations announced are “just not enough.” Campbell said she wants answers to more questions and a greater investigation into the facts of the Rose case.

“There clearly needs to be more information released, and I think we can do that while still protecting the identity of victims,” Campbell said to press outside City Hall, following Janey’s conference. “And I still am renewing my request that the U.S. attorney’s office be brought in to do the investigation that is necessary, given the magnitude of this case.”

The recommendations were released as part of a report from OPAT, which was created in January by then-Mayor Martin Walsh. The office is meant to be a point of public access to better police accountability and community oversight.

But Campbell said she feels the office wasn’t prepared to take on this investigation and that in her eyes it didn’t have the proper staff or resources.

“We need an independent investigation, and we need it swift,” Campbell said. “And if we say transparency and accountability is key, then the acting mayor needs to take action that aligns with those values. Because this doesn’t just erode trust with community and the victims in this case. It also erodes trust with other public employees and officers within our police department who work hard every single day, show up with a standard of professionalism and excellence.”

At the press conference, Janey also discussed the city’s continuing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including efforts to increase vaccination rates in Boston. Among those efforts is the goal to vaccinate all city employees.

“That has been the focus throughout this year,” Janey said. “That is why we have set up priority clinics for teachers, police officers, firefighters, EMTs and other frontline workers. It is why we’ve brought vaccine clinics to City Hall, and it is why we provide paid time off for our employees to get vaccinated.”

Despite that, she acknowledged that some employees still aren’t vaccinated. Janey mentioned a potential mandate requiring city employees to receive the vaccine but has yet to enact such a policy.

Noting that 90% of the city workforce is unionized, she said, “What we want to do is make sure that we are being very thoughtful in our approach, that we are working with our workers, that this is a very worker-centered plan that we put forth. We want to bring people to the table to make sure that we’re doing this right. I have been in discussions with many of our labor leaders who represent our workforce, and they are excited to get their members protected as well.”

Campbell called delaying a vaccine mandate for city employees “a mistake,” and said that she believes conversations with unions can happen quickly.

“When you think about the uptick in cases right now, the Delta variant and the real fear in the community right now — including among city employees who have children, who care for elders, including some elder and senior employees — everyone wants people to be wearing masks and they want everyone to be mandated to get vaccination or to go through regular testing,” Campbell said.

Other local efforts in the fight against COVID-19 include continued mask use. Within municipal buildings such as City Hall, masks are required. Similarly, Boston Public Schools is currently requiring that all students and staff wear mask at summer school programs. This requirement will continue into the fall semester.

The CDC recently advised that vaccinated individuals should return to wearing masks indoors. While no Boston mask mandate exists for the private sector, Janey said she encourages people to do what they can to protect themselves.

“All of our tracking metrics remain below threshold levels and well below the peak of 2020, but they are increasing,” Janey said. “After a year and a half of battling COVID-19, I understand many of us feel ready to move on from the pandemic, but let me be clear: The pandemic is not over. We are still living with COVID-19 and we must do all we can to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe.”

Boston Police Department, COVID restrictions, kim janey