The Boston Police Department is committed to implementing police reform. The department has been working to implement the Mayor’s Task Force on Police Reform recommendations, Massachusetts Police Reform legislative mandates, and other calls for reform from the community, advocates and elected officials. The Boston Police Department believes it is important to communicate these efforts directly to the community.
The Massachusetts police reform bill and the task force recommendations overlap in several key areas, most notably civilian oversight, reporting of data, policy and training. The Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission that is being created at the state level will have some similar responsibilities as the newly created OPAT. The POST Commission will also be issuing standards for policy and training in areas that the task force has also made recommendations. The Department has been meeting regularly to work through the state legislation and Task Force recommendations.
The POST Commission will also be overseeing a new certification/ decertification process for all police officers in the commonwealth. Officers will get reviewed for certification every three years. There will be significant new mandatory reporting requirements for police departments. For example:
● All complaints filed with BPD submitted to POST within two business days
● All investigations into complaints completed within one year
● Complete disciplinary records for all officers
● Training records for all officers
● Complaint investigatory files
● Officer involved injuries
● Any other data they request to identify patterns of potential bias
The BPD has been working on policy changes and setting up new reporting systems to be able to comply with the MA legislation. This is going to be a significant undertaking for our Bureau of Professional Standards and Bureau of Professional Development.
Beginning on July 1, 2021, the state legislation requirements for police response to planned mass gatherings take effect. These include 1) communicating with organizing groups; 2) assigning a de-escalation officer for each event; 3) documenting all de-escalation attempts; and 4) reporting to POST any crowd control instance where tear gas/ chemical weapon, rubber bullets, or deployment of a dog were used (including all de-escalation attempts). The BPD has been adhering to the practice of communicating with organizers before an event for many years. The BPD will follow all requirements of the law for mass gatherings.
The BPD is complying with, and will continue to comply with legal restrictions to No Knock Warrants that took effect on 12/31/20 per the MA legislation.
We have made progress in police reform efforts, however much of the state mandated requirements have yet to be issued – i.e. standardized use of force policies, approved curriculum for recruits, reporting process for complaints, etc. They are expected on July 1st, and we will be implementing them once they are issued.
The BPD has made progress in policies related to police reform. In April 2021 the BPD made several policy changes not related to the Task Force recommendation or the MA legislation:
· A new Transgender Policy was issued to establish guidelines for the appropriate treatment of transgender individuals who come into contact with the Boston Police Department. (new Rule 113B)
· The BPD revised policy regarding transporting prisoners to mandate police officers report the odometer reading at the start and end of all prisoner transports. Previously this only applied to female prisoners. (Rule 318)
· BPD revised policy regarding notification responsibilities and process related to alleged criminal and/or questionable behavior of on and off duty officers and civilians. (Rule 102)
In May 2021 BPD revised all Use of Force Rules (You can find Rules 303, 303A, 303B, 303C, 303D, and 304 on the Rules & Procedures page) based on state legislation and task force recommendations. This includes incorporation of legislation regulating use of force, de-escalation tactics, duty to intervene, and discharging firearms into fleeing vehicles. The Investigation of Firearm Discharges section was also updated to include Rule 405 Body Worn Camera policy related to collecting and securing video footage in instances of officer involved shootings and other use of deadly force. Rule 304 Non-Lethal Force was also updated to include a description of the Use of Force Model. BPD had previously updated all use of force policies in June 2020 to address concerns of “8 Can’t Wait”. BPD will be revising these policies again this summer with the anticipation of POST use of force standards being issued July 1.
The BPD revised Rule 113A Bias-Free Policing based on Massachusetts Police Reform Legislation and the recommendations of former Mayor Walsh’s Task Force on Police Reform. The Department also used the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) model bias-free policing policy as a guide, adapting their format and language to fit the BPD. Revised Rule 113A was reviewed by the internal DEI committee as well as the Mayor’s Office of Equity.
The BPD convened an internal Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee (DEI) to look at recruitment, hiring and promotions, discipline, assignments and opportunities for career advancement, as well as overall culture of the organization. This DEI Committee is currently chaired by Deputy Superintendent Eddy Chrispin, who was a member of the Mayor’s Task Force and is assigned to the Bureau of Professional Standards. This committee began meeting in the beginning of April 2021.
The BPD created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policy for the Department. This policy was reviewed by the internal DEI committee as well as the Mayor’s Office of Equity.
In terms of training, the BPD has expanded Fair and Impartial Policing curriculum for recruits from two hours to eight hours. This change took place for the current recruit class graduating in June 2021. This expands training in unconscious bias and procedural justice. The BPD has also implemented ABLE – Active Bystandership in Law Enforcement, a national training effort to prepare officers to successfully intervene to prevent harm and create a culture that supports peer intervention. ABLE is a collaboration between Georgetown University Law Center, the Sheppard Mullin Law Firm, and the New Orleans Police Department. This eight hour training curriculum has been taught to the current recruit class, and will be rolled out this year through in-service training to veteran officers to ensure that all officers receive this training. Annual refresher training will be included during in-service training going forward.
As part of the work of the Equity & Inclusion Cabinet, Chief Lori Nelson of the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Racial Equity is developing a racial equity training curriculum for all city employees in partnership with contracted vendor Health Resources in Action (HRiA). BPD representatives are working with them regarding implementation of this equity training for all BPD employees – sworn and civilian.
Body Worn Cameras
The BPD has made progress toward the Task Force recommendations regarding the Department’s Body Worn Camera Program.
· The Video Evidence Unit extended the minimum camera footage retention period to 180 days (6 months) per Task Force recommendation. This was implemented late last summer. This is also the standard listed in the MA police reform legislation.
· Secondary camera deployment began in May for Patrol Officers. This will provide the charging and storage capacity for officers to wear their BWCs on overtime and paid details. Deployment will be completed in June.
· Rule 405 was revised to address secondary camera deployment and issued on May 11, 2021. In addition, this revision also includes a new Section 2.9. Special Operations Division Activation Factors. This clarifies for the officers and for the public the expectations for BWC use by Division units.
· The MA police reform legislation created a task force to study use of BWCs. Their report is due July 1st. Additional changes will be made to the BWC program as mandated by new regulations.
Data and Reporting:
The Task Force made several recommendations related to open and accessible data. The BPD has been working on an accountability and transparency webpage with the Digital team, and various associated dashboards with DoIT. Demo dashboards have been completed for Firearms Discharges, FIOE Reports, Shootings, Shots Fired, Homicide Clearances, and Recovered Firearms. In addition we have worked with social service partners BEST and YouthConnect to create dashboards to display their work on the webpage as well. Other dashboards are in development: Complaints, In-custody deaths, Employee Demographics, and Calls for Service. BPD anticipates launching the webpage in June. Dashboards will be added to the webpage, and datasets to Analyze Boston as they are finalized, with appropriate restrictions for privacy and confidentiality as required by law.
Note: The BPD has been voluntarily reporting firearm discharge data to the FBI’s National Use-of-Force Data Collection system since summer of 2019, in compliance with their reporting requirements. The task force report erroneously stated that we did not report to this system. In addition, the federal Arrest-Related Deaths and Deaths in Custody Reporting Program the task force report recommended we report to is no longer operational.
BPD leadership has been rethinking the role of policing in general – seeking to shift some current responsibilities that do not require police response to other agencies for a civilian response, and to change the way the department responds to other incidents.
· BPD is working with Health and Human Services Chief Martinez and other city representatives to develop a civilian response to non-emergency calls for service. The civilian response plan being developed will be presented to Mayor Janey for review.
· BPD started a pilot program to shift towing responsibilities to the Department of Transportation.
- BPD is changing the process for responding to Section 12 (transportation order to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation) and Section 35 orders (involuntary civil commitment for substance use disorder treatment). These will be streamlined through the Street Outreach Unit for case by case review and to ensure consistency.
The Boston Police Department is undergoing significant reform as leadership works to implement the mandates of Massachusetts Police Reform legislation in conjunction with the recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force on Police Reform, in addition to rethinking policing. Together, all of these reforms will increase accountability and transparency, and promote diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the department. The BPD is committed to these reforms and to proactive community engagement to strengthen relationships with the community that have been strained due to COVID; and to listening to the community regarding their priorities for police reform and the role of police.
Update on Task Force recommendations:
The BPD has received many ongoing inquiries about the progress of implementing Mayor Walsh’s Police Reform Task Force recommendations. These recommendations were made prior to the MA Police Reform legislation being implemented into law and as has been previously mentioned, there is much overlap – with state mandates taking legal precedent over recommendations. In addition, it is worth noting that the Task Force specifically recommended that the City “Pledge to implement the Task Force’s recommendations without increasing the BPD’s budget.” The Department has been working within current resource constraints to implement recommendations as well as prepare for compliance with the pending POST Commission requirements.