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Wu makes appointments to police oversight panels

Appointments are step forward in city’s police reforms

Anna Lamb
Wu makes appointments to police oversight panels
Stephanie Everett, executive director of the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, addresses reporters as Mayor Michelle Wu looks on. PHOTO: JEREMIAH ROBINSON, MAYOR’S OFFICE

Nearly a year after former Mayor Martin Walsh created a transparency office to address systemic police misconduct, Mayor Michelle Wu has made her final appointments to the two oversight panels designed during the reform process.

Her picks, a mix of criminal justice professionals, community advocates and local activists, have stirred a mixed reaction from those close to the process.

In 2020, as part of the response to the killing of George Floyd and racial justice protests in Boston and across the country, Walsh, created an 11-person task force to come up with actionable solutions to reform the Boston Police Department (BPD). As a result, and after months of meeting, the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency (OPAT) was established, and with it, two oversight panels designed to foster accountability between the public and BPD — a Civilian Review Board (CRB) and Internal Affairs Oversight Panel (IAOP).

Wu announced the appointed members to the CRB and IAOP at a press conference inside BPD headquarters in Roxbury last Thursday. She was joined by OPAT Executive Director Stephanie Everett, members of the two panels, several BPD officials and a handful of elected officials as well.

During the meeting, Wu and city councilors present expressed their excitement over the new panels and the possibility to create checks and balances where there have been none before.

“Every resident, in every corner of every neighborhood in our city, deserves to feel safe in the knowledge that our police department will uphold its responsibility to serve and protect them. That requires building trust — trust that begins and ends with our communities,” said Wu on Thursday. “With our search for a new police commissioner underway and our appointees to the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency boards in place, we are ready to transform the structures of public safety and health to build community in Boston.”

Along with the panel member appointments, Wu made executive administration appointments to OPAT last week. While Everett was already confirmed as OPAT executive director months ago, she is now joined by Peter Alvarez, chair of the CRB, and Leslie Harris, chair of the IAOP.

The CRB is a nine-person panel that will recommend “action on individuals’ complaints against the Boston Police Department.” Its members are:

Peter Alvarez (chair), a former BPS school teacher and lawyer providing pro bono education-related counsel.

Natalie Carithers, a former chief of staff in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, who has served in various public service and community organization positions.

Rev. Wayne S. Daley, the director of youth and community services at the Salvation Army in Boston, who has served as a chaplain at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department and assisted young people returning to their communities after periods of incarceration.

Joshua Dankoff, a child welfare, juvenile justice and immigration policy advocate.

Anne Hernandez, a social worker supporting immigrant students.

Carrie Mays, a local organizer with the Center for Teen Empowerment involved in the arts, serving as the Board’s dedicated youth member.

Amy McNamee, a criminal defense attorney who works on various violent and financial crimes cases.

Tara Register, an advocate and organizer focused on creating youth wellness through comprehensive systems of family support.

Chris Sumner, an advocate who has led many community organizations in Boston, including Upward Bound and The Salvation Army’s Ray & Joan Kroc Center.

The IAOP is charged with “reviewing completed investigations of the Boston Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division.” The panel’s appointments are as follows:

Judge Leslie Harris (chair), a retired associate justice for the Suffolk Juvenile Court who has also worked as a teacher, youth worker, probation officer for the Suffolk Superior Court, public defender and chief of the Juvenile Division of the Suffolk County DA’s office.

Allison Cartwright, attorney in charge at the Roxbury Defender’s Office, former member of the Police Reform Task Force and former assistant corporation counsel for the city of Boston.

Christina Miller, an assistant clinical professor of law at Suffolk University who also served as chief of district courts and community prosecutions with the Suffolk County DA’s Office.

Julien Mundele, an attorney specializing in government investigations, criminal defense and health law practice, and a former assistant district attorney with the Suffolk County DA’s Office.

Jassie-Fredcia Senwah, a victim witness advocate at the Suffolk County DA’s Office and organizer providing resources and support to students, women and children impacted by domestic violence.

Rahsaan Hall, a former ACLU lawyer and candidate for Plymouth County District Attorney, said, “It’s important that she made these appointments to build off of the work that was started in the administration before her, and that community advocates have been pressing for.” 

While Hall said he is happy that Wu has been able to pull together “a diverse group of people with a broad array of experiences and backgrounds,” he said the panels’ success will depend on how well the city can support them.

“My hope is that the Civilian Review Board and the Internal Affairs Oversight Panel are given the resources and support that they need to fully execute their duties and hold law enforcement to the high standards that is consistent with the oath that they took to serve and protect,” he said.

Additionally, Hall added that he would have liked to see “a few more people who have been involved in direct advocacy for police accountability” as opposed to appointees that have had little experience with criminal justice advocacy.

He isn’t the only one with criticisms. Criminal defense attorney Carl Williams, who is representing protesters arrested in 2020 demonstrations, said the whole focus on oversight ignores the root problem. Williams believes cutting police budgets, as was called for by the City Council in the wake of George Floyd’s death, would more adequately address the systemic problems causing violence and corruption within BPD.

“You’re choosing to ignore what directly affected young, Black, brown, poor, organized people in our communities — that care about our communities and care about Boston deeply — are demanding, and have been demanding for years,” he said.

OPAT begins its work immediately, with a first meeting among organization leaders scheduled for Feb. 15. An office-wide retreat is planned for March.

“With the boards now fully seated, I am eager to get the work going,” Everett said Thursday, “and we have a lot of work to do.”