A board of citizens appointed by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino more than six months ago to review citizen complaints of police misconduct is ready to begin taking cases, the Boston Globe reports. The three-member panel has received training on police procedures with a focus on use-of-force guidelines. The Police Department has hired a liaison who will handle case flow and communication with complainants. The panel’s activation ends a long battle by community leaders who fought for an independent body to review allegations against police.
It is being criticized as weak and too entwined with the Police Department to be independent. The board cannot conduct its own investigations or field citizen complaints that have not first gone through police. The panel’s headquarters is in the Internal Affairs Division of the Police Department. The board will automatically review cases that allege serious police misconduct. Boston’s approach differs considerably from that in some other cities, most notably Atlanta, where a police shooting of an 88-year-old woman in November prompted the creation — in a mere eight months, compared with nearly three years in Boston — of an 11-member board appointed mostly by neighborhood, business, and legal groups. The Atlanta panel receives complaints directly from citizens, conducts its own investigations, and has the power to subpoena witnesses and documents.