BOSTON- Wednesday, June 7, 2017 – Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced today improvements to the Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel (CO-OP) and Complaint Mediation Program that will provide a neutral location for the public to file complaints, increase the number of cases reviewed and automatically refer cases for immediate review that involve allegations of discrimination or use of force resulting in serious bodily injury.
In 2015, Mayor Walsh reconstituted the CO-OP, appointing Professor Natashia Tidwell, J. Larry Mayes and Judge Regina Quinlan to three year terms.
“In Boston, our goal to have complete trust with the community,” Mayor Walsh said. “We are strengthening the relationship between our residents and the police, we are providing community-driven training to our officers before they hit the streets, and we are seeing results. The number of complaints are going down, crime is going down and, even more importantly, the number of arrests continue to go down. Creating more public accountability and bringing greater transparency to this process are key to reaching our goals and I look forward to the continued work of the CO-OP and its members.”
Acting on recommendations from the CO-OP, the public will now be able to file complaints with the Civic Engagement Cabinet, located at City Hall, to offer a more neutral location than going to a police department. The Civic Engagement Cabinet, which includes the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services, interacts daily with residents and neighborhood groups to hear their concerns and connect them to services.
In addition, allegations of bias in policing or discriminatory conduct will now be classified differently to increase transparency between BPD Internal Affairs Division and the community and to ensure that allegations of discrimination are properly tracked.
Any case involving allegations of discrimination or use of force resulting in serious bodily injury will automatically be referred to the CO-OP for review after Internal Affairs reaches its decision. The CO-OP is responsible for reviewing completed investigations and appealed investigations for thoroughness and fairness.
The number of cases reviewed by the CO-OP will be increased from 10 percent to 20 percent, and will continue to be chosen by random audit. In addition, all allegations of discrimination or use of force resulting in serious bodily injury will be automatically referred to the CO-OP. The CO-OP will be increased from three members to up to five members with staggered three year terms to accommodate the additional caseload.
From 2013 to 2016, total citizen complaints to Internal Affairs have declined from 361 to 199 complaints per year and total citizen complaints for excessive force have declined from 40 to 18. Further, BPD Recruit Classes are now trained in Unconscious Bias and De-escalation training prior to joining the police force.
The CO-OP was established in 2007 to serve as an outside, unbiased party provide external oversight and review of BPD internal investigations. Members have access to all investigation materials related to the case they are viewing. If a case requires clarification, the panel will send an inquiry to Internal Affairs to request additional investigation. If, after taking that step, the CO-OP disagrees with the decision of Internal Affairs, a recommendation will be made to the Police Commissioner.
The panel also periodically reviews policies and procedures of the internal affairs process and its integrity, and produce an annual report to the Mayor and the Police Commissioner documenting cases reviewed and the outcome of the Panel’s review for each case.