Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole agree that a proposed civilian review board for the police department should not have subpoena or investigative powers, reports the Boston Globe. The city’s powerful police unions agree, but experts say such boards need subpoena authority to be effective. O’Toole pledged last month to establish a review board, which Boston has lacked for more than a decade, to improve accountability and build public trust by looking into a range of citizen complaints against the department. She agrees with Menino that the board should be more advisory and should not have powers that might undermine the police.
Darnell Williams, the president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, said he would consider a board without subpoena or investigative powers to be a paper tiger. O’Toole announced her plans for a review board after the death of a college student shot by police with a pepper pellet gun during a Red Sox celebration in October and after several acquittals in high-profile cases in which police conduct was questioned. O’Toole asked Northeastern University criminology professor Jack McDevitt to design the board along the lines of the best models from around the country. Some of the boards he cited as effective have the power to subpoena police officers and other witnesses to testify and to compel documents to be turned over.