Memo to Acting Mayor Kim Janey: This shouldn’t be that complicated.
No one is blaming Janey for the current mess Marty Walsh left behind at the Boston Police Department.
The Walsh administration was hardly a paragon of transparency, and it allowed the BPD wide latitude to keep secrets that should never have been kept, hide files that the public has long deserved to see, and keep in the shadows the bad behavior of too many cops not worthy of wearing the uniform.
That is not a record that any prospective candidate for mayor wants to duplicate — not at a time when police reforms at both the state and local level will demand transparency.
Now the city awaits a report from an independent investigator about the 1999 domestic abuse allegations against the city’s police commissioner, Dennis White, who has been on administrative leave since shortly after his appointment by Walsh. Janey said early in April that she expected a report by the end of that month.
April came and went and, Monday, Janey told WBUR, “The last thing I want to do is rush this decision,” adding that rushing was pretty much what led to the post-appointment revelations in the first place.
Janey said the report is in the hands of the city’s corporation counsel and that she has not yet been briefed on its contents. That is expected to happen sometime early this week, which she indicated could potentially put off release of the report and a decision on White’s future until next week.
However, as we saw with City Hall’s recent release of the report on former Boston Police officer Patrick M. Rose Sr., now charged with 33 counts of child molestation involving six children, the city’s idea of full transparency leaves a lot to be desired.
In that case, Janey released 13 pages of a 105-page BPD internal affairs file on the 1995 allegations that Rose had molested a 12-year-old boy. The charges were found to be credible by internal affairs, and yet Rose was allowed to remain on the force — rising to president of the police union — until his retirement in 2018. Janey’s office insisted the rest of the report was withheld to protect the identity of the victim — an excuse the BPD has hidden behind for decades.
The Boston Globe filed suit last week against the Boston Police Department for release of the internal affairs files in both the Rose and White cases, along with a 2005 case involving police Sergeant Clifton McHale, in which he was accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman in his police vehicle. McHale is currently under investigation after a video showed him bragging about hitting George Floyd protesters with his police car.
The Globe suit contends that the state’s victim protection statute “is intended to protect victims, not police officers.” That law “does not automatically permit the withholding of all documents showing that a person, and especially a police officer, has been accused of rape or domestic violence,” the suit says. It’s a shame that it takes a lawsuit to sort that out.
Dennis White wasn’t Janey’s pick — and the very process (or lack thereof) of his hastily made appointment wasn’t her responsibility. But she can extricate herself from this mess by releasing the internal affairs files along with the investigator’s report. And if White’s record is indeed found blemished beyond repair, she should not hesitate to begin the process anew.
Yes, her appointment powers may indeed be limited by the city charter, which states the acting mayor “shall possess the powers of mayor only in matters not admitting of delay, but shall have no power to make permanent appointments.”
That certainly wouldn’t stop her from appointing a search committee for a new commissioner and demanding a do-over.
But whatever path she chooses, Janey needs to do it quickly and openly. This is a rare opportunity to show strong leadership — and that she’s a serious contender to have that “acting” part of her title removed.
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