Boston's year-old police-civilian review board is so shrouded from public view it stands out nationally as among the most secretive panels of its kind, reports the Boston Herald. Not only is the public not invited to the board's rare meetings, but its activities cannot be monitored because there are no minutes. Since Mayor Thomas Menino created the Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel and Complaint Mediation Program in March, the three-member board has convened just 11 times, in six locations – all of them closed to the public. To date, only one Boston resident has brought a complaint to the panel.
The board has reviewed seven cases picked at random by the Boston Police Department's internal affairs department. City officials refuse to provide any details of those cases, or of recommendations the board may have made, saying it would violate the privacy of city employees. “How can you have an agency that doesn't keep minutes?” said Sam Walker, a criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska. “That doesn't even meet the minimum standards. I knew there were a lot of compromises in what was finally created. (But) that's not acceptable.” The Boston board operates in contrast to similar agencies in New York, Miami, Washington, D.C., Cincinnati and 10 other cities, where panels post times and dates of meetings, hold them in full view of the public, describe cases under review, and announce findings on a regular basis. Boston’s board was created in response to the controversial police shooting death of college student Victoria Snelgrove during a riot after the Red Sox won the 2004 pennant.