BOSTON – Wednesday, January 29, 2020 – Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced he has appointed four new members to the Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel (CO-OP), a five-member panel that reviews appeals made with the Boston Police over internal investigations cases. The four new members of the CO-OP include Christina Miller, Meredith Paige Shih, Julien Mendele and Jassie Senwah. These members join Honorary Regina Quinlan Doherty, a retired Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court. Quinlan will serve as the CO-OP chair.
“In Boston, we’re focused on community policing, and that means continuing to strengthen the relationship between our residents and our police department,” said Mayor Walsh. “I’m proud to appoint these experienced members to the CO-OP and look forward to their work assisting all residents of Boston.”
Christina Miller is an assistant professor at Suffolk University Law School, and an adjunct professor at Northeastern University School of Law. For over 10 years, Miller served as the Chief of District Courts and Community Prosecutions at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, where she managed the hiring, supervision, discipline and promotion of Assistant District Attorneys practicing in district and municipal courts. Miller’s experience also includes work as an Assistant District Attorney in the Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk District Attorneys’ Offices. Miller earned her JD from Northeastern University School of Law.
Meredith Paige Shih is a clinical instructor at Harvard Law School, teaching at the Criminal Justice Institute. Shih’s background includes work as an attorney representing criminal defendants for Wood & Nathanson LLP and the Committee for Public Counsel Services. Shih’s experience also includes roles at the Disability Law Center, Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and the State Appellate Defender’s Office. Shih earned her JD from Boston University School of Law.
Julien Mendele is an associate at Todd & Weld LLP in the government investigations and criminal defense and health law practice. Prior to joining Todd & Weld, Mundele was an Assistant District Attorney in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. During his tenure, he investigated and prosecuted complex financial crimes, civil rights violations, and public corruption matters. He also investigated and prosecuted numerous major felonies, including homicides. As a prosecutor, Mundele tried over 60 District Court and Superior Court cases, including embezzlement, false entry into corporate books, armed robbery, and armed assault to murder, and he successfully argued appeals before the Massachusetts Appeals Court. In 2019, Mundele, as a member of the Special Prosecution Unit, was awarded the Brian J. Honan Award for demonstrating excellence in the courtroom and in the community. Mendele earned his JD from Suffolk University Law School.
Jassie Senwah is a shelter coordinator at the Transition House, a domestic violence shelter, and a domestic violence shelter advocate at Health Imperatives, Penelope’s Place. Senwah served for eight years in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office in the Victim Witness Advocate unit, providing comprehensive services and referrals to meet the needs of crime victims beginning at the point of victimization, continuing throughout their involvement in the criminal justice system and beyond. Senwah earned a Masters Degree in Public Administration and MS in Crime and Justice Studies and her Paralegal Certificate from Suffolk University.
In 2015, Mayor Walsh reconstituted the CO-OP, and in 2017, Mayor Walsh announced improvements to the CO-OP and Complaint Mediation Program that provided a neutral location for the public to file complaints, increased the number of cases reviewed and automatically referred cases for immediate review that involved allegations of discrimination or use of force resulting in serious bodily injury.
Over the course of the Mayor’s Administration, total citizen complaints to Internal Affairs have declined from 361 in 2013 to 151 in 2019, a decrease of nearly 42 percent. Similarly, total citizen complaints for excessive force have declined from 43 complaints in 2013 to 21 complaints in 2019, a decrease of nearly half. Further, BPD Recruit Classes are now trained in Unconscious Bias and De-escalation training prior to joining the police force.
The CO-OP was established in 2007 to serve as an outside, unbiased party providing external oversight and review of BPD internal investigations. Members have access to all investigation materials related to the case they are viewing. If a case requires clarification, the panel will send an inquiry to Internal Affairs to request additional investigation. If, after taking that step, the CO-OP disagrees with the decision of Internal Affairs, a recommendation will be made to the Police Commissioner.
The panel also periodically reviews policies and procedures of the internal affairs process and its integrity, and produces an annual report to the Mayor and the Police Commissioner documenting cases reviewed and the outcome of the Panel’s review for each case.