Below are clarifications to some factual inaccuracies that appeared in an opinion editorial that was published in one of the daily Boston newspapers on 1-17-06.We have heard from a number of people about several of the concerns that were raised in the opinion piece. Therefore, in our commitment to provide the community with accurate and updated information on department-related issues, we felt it was necessary to provide these clarifications.
Here are quotes directly from the opinion editorial followed by the correct information.
Quote: “There is not one African- American commanding any of Boston’s 13 precincts.”
Clarification: It is assumed that by \’precincts\’ the author is referring to our police districts. “Precincts” is a term used by New York City, however it is not commonly used in Boston.
Boston has 11 police districts, not 13.
Captain James Claiborne, an African-American, commands District 13. Among the other African Americans who are in command of citywide units or divisions: Deputy Superintendent Rafael Ruiz, overseeing both District 2 and District 3. Captain Pervis Ryans, commanding the Operations Division. Deputy Superintendent Michael Cox, commanding the Forensic Technology Division.
The night commander of the Boston Police Department is Superintendent Bobbie Johnson. Supt. Johnson is in the retirement process; in his absence, he and Superintendent Charles Horsley have been grooming Deputy Superintendent Bruce Holloway to be a night commander. All three men are African-American.
Quote: “The Homicide detectives don’t work after 1 a.m., a time when nightlife is busy and criminal activity abounds.”
Clarification: Homicide detective are on-call 24 hours a day and are required to respond to any unattended death regardless of the time of day. Once on the scene, a homicide investigator begins the investigation immediately. Homicide detectives often work around the clock, and may not return home for days at a time. Homicide detectives often leave their own families behind so that they can respond to the concerns of a victim’s families.
The role of a Homicide detective is not to prevent homicides by patrolling the streets, but to investigate a homicide once it has occurred.
Less than one-third of the city’s homicides in 2005 occurred between midnight and 5:00 AM.
Quote: “The Homicide Unit and the Gang Unit of the department are not even housed in the same building or under the same supervision”
Clarification: Both the Homicide Unit and the Youth Violence Strike Force (assuming that is what the author meant by Gang Unit) both fall under the command of the Bureau of Investigative Services led by Superintendent Paul Joyce.
Quote: “The lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the supervisory or officer ranks is troubling and a major impediment to crime solving, particularly in minority communities where residents are more likely to share information with folks who look like them or share the culture and language.”
Clarification: The Boston Police Department, including its Command Staff, has a higher level of diversity today than it has had at any time in its 151-year history.
For almost 30 years, the Department has been operating under a Consent Decree that called for the Department\’s sworn and tenured workforce of Black & Hispanic officers to reach parity with the percentage of Black and Hispanic residents who resided in Boston, as counted by the Federal Census.
On 11/23/04, the department was released from that Consent Decree. At the time of its expiration, about 34.5% of our sworn workforce were Black and Hispanic and the city\’s population stood at 38 % Black & Hispanic. As of today, the percentage stands at 35.8%, the highest level in the history of the Department
Any suggestion that the Boston Police Department is not a diverse department is absurd. While people may pay attention to statistics, we are focused on hiring and retaining the best person for the job. We respect the fact that the Department should be diverse throughout its ranks. We’ve made a huge commitment to diversity, and our record speaks for itself.
More than 25% of the personnel in the homicide Unit are minority. Out of 20 line personnel, six are minorities. The Unit also includes their first ever Family Resource Officer, an African American female officer.
In an effort to further diversify the Department, Commissioner O’Toole has made extensive use of the Special Certification option for the last several incoming recruit classes, giving preference candidates with proficiency in any of the following languages: Spanish, Cape Verdean, Haitian-Creole, and Vietnamese.
Quote: “It is common knowledge that arrests were made in less than 30 percent of the record 75 homicides in 2005.”
Clarification: The 75 homicides in 2005 were not a record number. For example, in 1990 the City of Boston recorded 150 homicides.
It is important to understand the distinction between “clearance rates” and convictions. A “clearance” simply indicates that an arrest has been made. As Boston is painfully aware, many times an initial arrest results in a dismissal or, as we discovered in 2004, a wrongful conviction that is later overturned. The BPD is committed to getting it right- in 2005, the city of Boston had a 91% conviction rate of all murder cases.
Quote: “The level of mistrust between community and police has never been higher.”
Clarification: This statement deeply concerns us. The Commissioner, the Command Staff, and police officers of every rank attend numerous community meetings every day. We all sincerely appreciate the commitment of so many people in all of our neighborhoods to work with the police on the complicated challenges we face. To our knowledge, the relations between the Department and the members of our communities are at a very high level.
A casual observer of Boston history will know that there have been several times during our long history in which the relations between the Department and our communities were severely strained. To suggest that the level of mistrust today is at an all-time high is at best irresponsible, and at worst a deliberately harmful attempt to damage the partnerships that have been built and strengthened over the past 15 years of hard work.
Quote: “At least two of the Homicide Unit detectives investigating high-profile murders in the past few years were moved or demoted. The community has a right to know why.”
Clarification: There have been no demotions in the homicide unit over the past several years. Since assuming command of our homicide detectives, Deputy Superintendent Daniel Coleman has made a commitment to reorganizing the Unit. Some former members were transferred to other detective assignments and others have transferred into the Homicide Unit.
There has been a promotion in which a Detective Sgt. (Bruce Holloway, an African American) was recently promoted to Deputy Superintendent of the Bureau of Field Services. Another promotion occurred when Sergeant Detective Robert Merner was promoted to Lieutenant, where he now oversees all of the Detectives in District 2.
Every homicide is considered to be a “high profile” investigation.
Quote: “We have a bad Boston habit of inviting only those to the table that we feel comfortable talking to. What happens then is that we don\’t hear what we must from the folks with the most credibility and respect where it matters, on the street.”
Clarification: Our efforts have been and continue to be inclusive. We have made a deliberate effort to forge partnerships with members of each of our communities. It is our practice that meeting on specific issues do not begin until we have made a substantial effort to include all stakeholders: community members, public safety partners, and elected officials.
Quote: “Perhaps it\’s time to accept the stark reality that, if high test scores do not mean you can successfully investigate and solve a homicide, maybe it is no longer a reliable determinant, if it ever was.”
Clarification: The Boston Police Homicide Unit has never considered exam scores when selecting detectives.
Homicide is a specialized unit, and we set an extremely high standard in selecting homicide detectives. Assignment to the Homicide Unit is one that requires an aptitude for the work, shown through a Detective’s work history and effectiveness, and a dedication and willingness to work the hours and conditions demanded by the Unit.
A frustrating reality is that many officers who are qualified to be homicide detectives are reluctant to make the necessary commitment to this grueling assignment. The last two minority supervisors that were hired were the result of extensive recruiting efforts by the Department leadership.
Quote: “The Boston Police Department is structured on an antiquated system that may have made sense years ago, but is ineffective in the 21st-century reality of crime and its culture”
Clarification: Within the past two years alone, in response to emerging crime trends, the Boston Police Department has repeatedly engaged in several strategic efforts to restructure units that are directly responsible for driving down crime
Example 1: Bi-weekly street violence suppression meetings held over the past year focusing on violent criminals and activities within our neighborhood. These bi-weekly reviews of activity include input from tactical intelligence, personnel as well as district level personnel and prosecutors working together to identify patterns of violent behavior and to stop violent crime in our neighborhoods.
Example 2: The daily tactical analysis being performed at the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) by the combination of intelligence unit and civilian crime analysts has led to one of the most innovative info-sharing units in American policing. This includes a daily round up of the previous 24 hours analyzed by civilian crime analysts working side-by-side with intelligence detectives and disseminated and provide members of the BPD with vital, up-to-date information pertaining to crimes, crime trends and the people perpetrating those crimes. Far from being “antiquated”, this organizational model has been well-received by members of the department, federal authorities, local law enforcement partners and has been routinely visited by jurisdictions across the country (and Toronto) who are interested in emulating our model.
Example 3: The Firearms Investigation Center, which pairs our investigators with federal ATF Agents to jointly investigate firearms trafficking. We are one of the few, if not only, jurisdictions where this is happening.