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Boston Police Reform Task Force Hears Calls For Real Change, More Training For Police

This article is more than 1 year old.

The public got one last chance to offer ideas to the task force charged with recommending reforms for the Boston Police Department. Speakers during Tuesday's remote hearing asked for more mental health training for officers, and cautioned that real cultural change is needed.

About a dozen people weighed in during the listening session, held Tuesday afternoon. The task force is expected to send its final recommendations to Mayor Marty Walsh in October.

The panel released its initial recommendations earlier this month, calling for an independent office with broad investigatory and subpoena power to oversee the police department. They also recommend strengthening diversity and inclusion practices, expanding the body camera policy and creating clear disciplinary consequences for officers using excessive force.

One speaker, Don Carlson, cautioned the panel that changing policies and procedures isn't enough. He said he worried that there isn't a full appreciation for how difficult it will be to change Boston police culture.

“New structures, policies, rules and procedures will not, by themselves, change the culture in any meaningful way in any tolerable span of time," he said.

The initial report from the task force acknowledged that difficulty, noting that the recommendations on improving culture aren't enough.

"Bringing about meaningful culture change in an institution requires that the institution itself change," the report said.

Several callers questioned whether police are trained enough to handle calls involving people with mental illness. That included Jennifer Root Bannon, whose brother was killed in a shooting by Boston police and a state trooper in February.

Her family is suing the officers involved. The Norfolk District Attorney ruled the officers were not criminally responsible for the shooting that killed Root. The Boston Police Department is still investigating whether officers followed proper procedures.

Root Bannon told the task force that when someone is killed by police, the department should speak with the victim's family.

“I think it’s important to reach out to families who have lost someone that they loved to police violence," she said. "There are parts of stories that you’ll get to hear that you might not have thought of.”

Two police officers served on the task force, and one officer called in to give feedback Tuesday. Officer Claire Duffy, who works on the department's street outreach team, said she and her fellow officers are worried about any civilian review board being fair.

"We just would like to remind everybody that while we uphold everybody else's right to due process that we should also be given that right during ... police reform," she said.

Duffy said anyone who serves on a panel overseeing police should have a background or degree in law enforcement.

The task force is accepting written feedback through Friday.

Related:

Ally Jarmanning Twitter Senior Reporter
Ally is a senior reporter focused on criminal justice and police accountability.

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