Boston Police Department

Boston Police Department
Abbreviation BPD

Patch of the Boston Police Department

Badge of the Boston Police Department

Flag of the City of Boston
Agency overview
Formed 1838 (predecessor)
Annual budget $279 million (2013)[1]
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdiction* Commonwealth of Massachusetts, U.S.
Map of Boston Police Department's jurisdiction.
Size 89.6 sq. miles
Population 617,594 (2010 census)
Legal jurisdiction Boston, Massachusetts
General nature
Operational structure
Headquarters Boston, Massachusetts
Police Officers 2,144
Civilians 569
Police commissioner responsible William B. Evans
Agency executive William Gross, Superintendent In Chief
Patrol Vehicles Ford Expedition, Ford F250
Patrol cars Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Caprice PPV
K-9s 21
Boston Police Website
* Divisional agency: Division of the country, over which the agency has usual operational jurisdiction.
Police headquarters
Police Commissioner Thomas F. Sullivan (left), 1944
Investigating an abandoned stolen vehicle, 1958

The Boston Police Department (BPD), dating back to 1838, holds the primary responsibility for law enforcement and investigation within the city of Boston, Massachusetts. It is the first in the nation. The BPD is also the 20th largest law enforcement agency in the country and the 3rd largest in New England behind the Massachusetts State Police (2,300 officers) and the Massachusetts Department of Correction (4,000 officers).[2]


Pre-incorporation (1635–1828)

Before the existence of a formal police department, the first night watch was established in Boston in 1635.[2] In 1703, pay in the sum of 35 shillings a month was set for members of the night watch. In 1796, the watch was reorganized, and the watchmen carried a badge of office, a rattle, and a six-foot pole, which was painted blue and white with a hook on one end and a bill on the other. The hook was used to grab fleeing criminals, and the rounded "bill" was used as a weapon. The rattle was a noise-making device used for calling for assistance.[3][4]

The Day Police, which had no connection to the night watch, was organized in 1838.[2] The Day Police operated under the city marshal and had six appointed officers. This organization would eventually lead to the establishment of the modern-day Boston Police Department.

Nineteenth century

In 1838, a bill passed in the General Court that allowed the city to appoint police officers, paving the way for the creation of a formal police department.[5] The Boston Police Department was formally founded in May 1854, at which point both the night watch and Day Police were disbanded. A fourteen-inch club replaced the old hook and bill, which had been in use for one hundred and fifty-four years. At the time of its founding, the Boston Police constituted one of the first paid, professional police services in the United States. The department was closely organized and modeled after Sir Robert Peel's (London) Metropolitan Police Service.[4]

On November 3, 1851, the first Irish born Boston Police officer, Bernard "Barney" McGinniskin, was appointed. His presence generated considerable controversy. The Boston Pilot wrote, "He is the first Irishman that ever carried the stick of a policeman anywhere in this country, and meetings, even Faneuil Hall meetings, have been held to protect against the appointment." At the time, the police salary of $2.00 a day for the morning and afternoon beat and $1.20 for the night watch was nearly twice as high as the wages of laborers. City Marshal Francis Tukey resisted mayor John Prescott Bigelow's appointment of McGinniskin, expressing the predominant anti-Irish sentiments in the city by arguing it was done at "the expense of an American." On January 5, 1852, shortly before the newly elected mayor Benjamin Seaver (who had been supported by Tukey) took office, Tukey fired McGinniskin without giving a reason. After criticism in the press, Seaver reinstated McGinniskin, who remained in the police until the 1854 anti-Irish groundswell of the Know Nothing/American Party movement, when in the words of the Boston Pilot, "Mr. McGinniskin was discharged from the Boston Police for no other reason than he was a Catholic and born in Ireland." McGinniskin became a United States inspector at the customhouse and died of rheumatism on March 2, 1868.[6] McGinniskin is buried in the St. Augustine Cemetery in South Boston.[4]

On October 18, 1857, at about 5:15 a.m., Boston Police Officer Ezekiel W. Hodsdon was patrolling the Corner of Havre and Maverick Street in East Boston. Hodsdon attempted to arrest two suspects for a burglary. A struggle ensued, and one of the suspects was able to get behind Hodsdon and shoot him in the head. Hodsdon died about 10:00 A.M., becoming the first Boston police officer killed in the line of duty. He was 25 years old. The murderers fled. Thousands of people visited the station house to view the body. Hodsdon left behind his wife Lydia and infant son Ezekiel who was born just 13 days prior to his death. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett, according to Boston Globe Newspaper Reports on Oct 19, 1857.[7] On October 18, 2007, a memorial was held in honor of Hodsdon on the Corner of Havre and Maverick Streets in East Boston.[4]

In 1871, the Boston Police Relief Association was founded.[4]

The Boston Police Department appointed Horatio J. Homer, its first African American officer, on December 24, 1878. He was promoted to sergeant in 1895. Sgt. Homer retired on Jan 29, 1919 after 40 years of service. He and his wife, Lydia Spriggs Homer, are buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Brighton, MA.[8] On June 26, 2010, the Boston Police Department dedicated a gravestone in honor of Sgt. Homer’s service.[4]

20th century

Main article: Boston Police Strike

On September 9, 1919, when Police Commissioner Edwin Upton Curtis refused to allow the creation of a police union, 1,117 BPD officers went on strike. This signaled a dramatic shift in traditional labor relations and views on the part of the police, who were unhappy with stagnant wages and poor working conditions. The city soon fell into riots and public chaos as over three-fourths of the department was no longer enforcing public peace. Governor Calvin Coolidge intervened to quash further chaos. Coolidge announced that the police did not have the right to strike against the public safety and brought in the state national guard to restore order to Boston. The strike was broken, permanently, when Coolidge hired replacement police officers, many of whom were returning servicemen from World War I, and the former officers were refused re-entry into the department. Ironically, the new officers hired in the wake of the strike received higher salaries, more vacation days and city-provided uniforms, the very demands the original strikers were requesting. The BPD strike set a precedent for further movements to stymie police unionization around the country.[4]

Coolidge's intervention in the strike brought him national fame, which, in turn, led to his nomination as Harding's running mate for Vice-President in the 1920 presidential election.

In 1921, Irene McAuliffe, daughter of the late Weston police chief and horse breeder Patrick McAuliffe, was among the first six female members of the Boston Police Department. An accomplished horsewoman, she was sworn in as a mounted officer of the Weston Police Department in 1913 during the town's bicentennial celebration. She joined the District of Columbia Police Department in 1920, and in 1921 she became a member of the Boston Police Department's Vice Squad.[4][9]

Busing crisis

Main article: Boston busing crisis

In 1974 and 1975, the BPD was involved in maintaining order during the public disturbance over court-ordered busing, which was intended to racially desegregate Boston's public school system.[2][10] The protest of white citizens escalated into street battles in 1974, and in 1975 uniformed BPD officers were stationed inside South Boston High School, Charlestown High School and other Boston public schools.[10]

On August 23, 1995, the BPD became the first police agency to send fingerprint images to the FBI electronically using the newly created EFIPS (now IAFIS) system. The first set of fingerprints were for a suspect arrested for armed robbery. Within hours of the receipt of the fingerprints, the FBI determined that the suspect had a number of prior arrests, including one for assault with intent to kill.[11]

21st century

On December 31, 2006, 31 Boston Municipal Police Officers were allowed to transfer to the Boston Police. On January 1, 2007, the rest of the Munis were either laid off or transferred to the city's Municipal Protective Services, which provides security to the city's Property Management Department. There was no merger with the Boston Municipal Police.

The transfers of Muni's was planned in mid-2006 by Mayor Thomas M. Menino. This plan was met with heavy protest from the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association. The BPPA's argument was that the Municipal officers were not qualified to be Boston police officers due to lack of training, political patronage, nepotism and the fact that the Munis were not civil service tested.[12]

With the rise of the "IT-age" in the 21st-Century, the BPD has rose to challenge of fighting cybercrime, and has a modern and competent team focusing on the increasingly complex and sophisticated methods of cybercriminals.

2007 Boston Bomb Scare

On January 31, 2007, 911 callers mistakenly identified small electronic promotions found throughout Boston and the surrounding cities of Cambridge and Somerville as possible explosives. Upon investigation by Boston Police and other agencies [13] the suspicious devices turned out to be battery-powered LED placards with an image of a cartoon character called a "mooninite" used in a guerrilla marketing campaign for Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters, a film based on the animated television series Aqua Teen Hunger Force on Cartoon Network's late-night programming block Adult Swim.[13]

The BPD's handling of this incident has been criticized by some Boston residents and justified by others: "We all thought it was pretty funny," said one student. "The majority of us recognize the difference between a bomb and a Lite-Brite," said another.[14] One resident said that the police response was "silly and insane," and that "We’re the laughing stock."[15] Another resident said that the device "looked like a bomb. I picked it up, pulled the tape off it, and there were batteries, two on the top and three on the bottom."[13] The same devices had been distributed in nine other cities across the USA without provoking a similar reaction.[15] The United States Department of Homeland Security praised Boston authorities "for sharing their knowledge quickly with Washington officials and the public."[16]

"Occupy Boston" Movement

Beginning in September–October 2011, protesters assembled in Dewey Square as a show of solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York. The Boston Police Department handled the presence of these protesters for ten days without a single arrest, and were hailed by members of the movement for their commendable execution of their duty. In the early hours of October 11, 2011, Boston Police and Transit Police moved into the protesters' secondary camp, arresting approximately 100 protesters.[17] Protesters claimed there were incidents of excessive force by police, however, Mayor Menino denied the claim, explaining that the occupation's move into another section of the Greenway endangered public safety.[18]

Departmental organization

A Boston Police Special Operations officer
A Boston Police cruiser on Beacon Street
Boston Police Department kiosk in Downtown Crossing

The Boston Police Department has approximately 2,015 officers and 808 civilian personnel, with patrol services covering an area of 89.6 mi² (232.1 km²) and a population of 617,594. The BPD requires all employed officers hired since 1995 to live within Boston city-limits, and this has led to calls for pay raises to help officers meet the city's high cost of living. The BPD is divided into three zones and 11 neighborhood districts spread across the city, with each zone supervised by a Deputy Superintendent and every district headed by a Captain.[4]

The Boston Police Department is organized into bureaus under the Office of the Police Commissioner. The Chief of Staff, media liaisons and the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) also operate out of the Commissioner's office.[19]

The Bureau of Field Services (BFS) consists of the zone commands and police districts, the Special Operations Unit and Youth Violence Strike Force (gang unit). It is the largest bureau and its main responsibility is tactical patrol and crime prevention.

The Bureau of Investigative Services (BIS) consists of the Homicide Unit, Drug Control Unit, Family Justice Center and Forensic Science Division. Superintendent Kevin Buckley is the head of the BIS.

Other bureaus include the Bureau of Administration & Technology, led by a civilian, Mr. Edward Callahan, and the Bureau of Professional Standards and Development, which encompasses the Training and Education Division, Internal Affairs and Anti-Corruption, headed by Superintendent Frank Mancini.


The Boston Police rank structure is as follows:

Title Insignia Notes
Commissioner (civilian) Appointed by the Mayor of Boston. Is the Executive Head of the department.
Superintendent In Chief
Highest-ranking police officer in the department. This position is not always filled.
Superintendents are typically in charge of a Bureau.
Deputy Superintendent
Deputy Superintendents are typically second-in-command of a Bureau.
Captain/Captain Detective
Captains are typically commanders in charge of a district.
Lieutenant/Lieutenant Detective
Sergeant/Sergeant Detective
Detective is a rank, guaranteed by a Legislative Act of 1986, providing that, in any department with more than 350 sworn members, the position of Detective is a rank not an appointment. Since 1986, Detectives have been "promoted" to the rank of Detective, not "rated" as Detectives.
Police Officer/Detective Police Officers are the first ranking officers.

The Superintendent In Chief is William Gross.[20]

Boston's former Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole was the first woman to serve in that position, until she resigned from her commissionership on June 30, 2006, to take a new position as Chief Inspector of the Inspectorate of the Irish national police force, the Garda Síochána. Upon her departure, Albert Goslin was appointed acting commissioner.


The Boston Police Commissioner is William B. Evans.

List of Boston Police Commissioners


The following is a list of districts that the BPD serves:[21]

District A-1, District A-15

District A-7

  • Serves: East Boston
  • Population Served: 40,508
  • Station: 69 Paris St., East Boston, MA 02128
  • Commanded by: Captain Kelly J. McCormick

District B-2

  • Serves: Roxbury/Mission Hill
  • Population Served: 76,917
  • Station: 2400 Washington St., Roxbury, MA 02119
  • Commanded by: Captain Terry Thomas

District B-3

  • Serves: Mattapan/North Dorchester
  • Population Served: 36,480
  • Station: 1165 Blue Hill Ave., Dorchester, MA 02124
  • Commanded by: Captain Haseeb Hosein

District C-6

  • Serves: South Boston
  • Population Served: 35,200
  • Station: 101 W. Broadway, South Boston, MA 02127
  • Commanded by: Captain Joseph Boyle

District C-11

  • Serves: Dorchester
  • Population Served: 91,982
  • Station: 40 Gibson St., Dorchester, MA 02122
  • Commanded by: Captain Timothy Connolly

District D-4

  • Serves: Back Bay/South End/Fenway
  • Population Served: 77,773
  • Station: 650 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 02116
  • Commanded by: Captain Paul M. Ivens

District D-14

  • Serves: Allston/Brighton
  • Population Served: 74,997
  • Station: 301 Washington St., Boston, MA 02135
  • Commanded by: Captain Wayne Lanchester

District E-5

  • Serves: West Roxbury/Roslindale
  • Population Served: 50,983
  • Station: 1708 Centre St., Boston, MA 02132
  • Commanded by: Captain Joseph Gillespie

District E-13

  • Serves: Jamaica Plain
  • Population Served: 37,468
  • Station: 3345 Washington St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
  • Commanded by: Captain Alfredo Andres

District E-18

  • Serves: Hyde Park
  • Population Served: 30,631
  • Station: 1249 Hyde Park Ave., Hyde Park, MA 02136
  • Commanded by: Captain Steven McLaughlin


A member of the Boston Police Special Operations Unit

The following is a list of the divisions of the BPD: [22]

The Boston Police Department ran a cadet program, where 18- to 24-year-olds were assigned to a division where they performed administrative tasks such as writing reports and directing traffic. After two years as cadets, they were promoted to Police Officers. This scheme was scrapped in 2009, due to budget cuts, and it is unclear whether it will ever run again.



The Boston Police uses the following vehicles.


Boston police officers may carry "only weapons, magazines and ammunition authorized and issued by the Department", which "include, but are not limited to":[25]

Community policing

In the 1990s the police department resurrected an old idea, the Walk & Talk strategy. Police officers assigned to patrol cars are required to walk a particular area for up to 45 minutes or longer per their tour of duty. The establishment of other initiatives like "Same Cop Same Neighborhood" and "Safe Street Beat Teams" have contributed widely to the continued success of community policing. These types of direct patrol were more widely expanded under the leadership of Police Commissioner Davis. Under his command Patrol Supervisors and police officers who were normally assigned to administrative duties were encouraged to perform a foot patrol. This type of patrol assignment is referred to as a Code 19.


By gender
By race

Fictional portrayals

The Boston Police Department has been portrayed in several prominent motion pictures including Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River, The Departed, Edge of Darkness, Blown Away, The Brinks Job, I Hate You, Dad, R.I.P.D., The Heat, What's The Worst That Could Happen?, The Boondock Saints, Surrogates, and The Town. BPD is also featured in the television series Spenser: For Hire, Rizzoli & Isles, Leverage, Crossing Jordan, Fringe, and the failed Katee Sackhoff/Goran Visnjic cop show pilot Boston's Finest.

Fictional BPD districts

Due to filming on location in the Boston area, fake BPD cruisers have been marked with fictional districts to avoid confusion with real BPD cruisers. They include:

District A-4
District A-8
District D-6
District G-4
District G-5
District G-8
19th Precinct

See also


  1. "Summary Budget" (PDF). City of Boston. 2012. Retrieved 2013-11-16.
  2. 1 2 3 4 A Brief History of The B.P.D. City of Boston, Police Department (accessed 3 December 2009) Archived April 4, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. Taylor, J. "The Victorian Police Rattle Mystery" The Constabulary (2003)
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 BPD Chronologist
  5. "A Brief History of the B.P.D.". City of City of Boston. 2011. Archived from the original on March 4, 2012. Retrieved February 26, 2012.
  6. Peter F. Stevens: The Hidden History of the Boston Irish p.42-45
  7. The Officer Down Memorial Page
  8. Information Taken from Boston Police Commissioner Order on January 29, 1919 online at the BPL.
  9. Boston Police Archives & Commissioner Orders
  10. 1 2 Boston: Preparing for the Worst TIME Sep. 15, 1975
  11. 1995 Annual Report of the Attorney General of the United States: Chapter II - Supporting Law Enforcement in the Community
  12. According to Pat Rose.37 Boston Municipal Officers don't qualify for merger Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. 1 2 3 Smalley, Suzanne; Mishra, Raja (2007-02-01). "Froth, fear, and fury". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-02-02.
  14. Blown out of proportion - Framingham, MA - The MetroWest Daily News Archived February 20, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. 1 2 Young Bostonians think city overreacted Archived 20110223135732 at WebCite
  16. "Arrest Made After 'Suspicious Packages' Paralyzed Boston as Part of Cartoon Network Marketing Campaign". Fox News. January 31, 2007.
  17. Ryan, Andrew; et al. (11 October 2011). "More than 100 arrested in Occupy Boston protests". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on October 11, 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  18. "Menino Disputes Police Brutality Claims In 'Occupy Boston' Arrests « CBS Boston". 2011-10-11. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  19. Boston Police Web page
  20. Superintendent William Gross to be named No. 2 commander of Boston police - The Boston Globe
  21. Boston Police Department Website, Retrieved on 2010.05.18
  22. "Divisions | City of Boston". 2012-02-13. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  23. "Hackney Carriage Unit | Boston Police | City of Boston". Retrieved 2012-02-17.
  24. "Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes and Drums". Retrieved February 23, 2012.
  25. 1 2 3 4 "Boston Police Department Rules and Procedures: Rule 303, Use of Deadly Force" (PDF). Boston Police Department. 11 April 2003. Section 9, page 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 26, 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2011.
  26. "Police Weapons in the USA: Massachusetts". Boston Police Department. 11 April 2003. Retrieved 2 December 2011. Sigarms .45 Caliber Pistol – 8 Rounds
  27. "Pistol Specifications" (PDF). SIG Sauer. Chart 1. Retrieved 2 December 2011.
  28. Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics, 2000: Data for Individual State and Local Agencies with 100 or More Officers Archived August 2, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  29. Photo of fake BPD cruiser on Fringe set
  30. Photo of fake BPD cruiser on Patriots Day set
  31. Photo of fake BPD cruisers with Oregon license plates

Further reading

External links

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