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Boston Police Department

BPD Headquarters
BPD Headquarters
The Boston Police Department (BPD), established in 1838, holds the primary responsibility for law enforcement and investigation within the city of Boston, Massachusetts. It is the 2nd oldest police department in the United States, after Philadelphia's. 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 (2,100 officers) and the Massachusetts Department of Correction (4,000 officers).[1]



Pre-history (1635-1828)

Before the existence of a formal police department, the first night watch was established in Boston in 1635.[1] 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.[2][3]

The Day Police, which had no connection to the night watch, was organized in 1838.[1] 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 1938, 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.[4] 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.[3]

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.[5] McGinniskin is buried in the St. Augustine Cemetery in South Boston.[3]

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.[6] On October 18, 2007, a memorial was held in honor of Hodsdon on the Corner of Havre and Maverick Streets in East Boston.[3]

In 1871, the Boston Police Relief Association was founded.[3]

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.[7] On June 26, 2010, the Boston Police Department dedicated a gravestone in honor of Sgt. Homer s service.[3]

20th century

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.[3]

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 member of the Boston Police Department. An accomplished horeswoman, 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.[8][3]

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.[1][9] 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 and other Boston public schools.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

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 [12] 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 (ATHF) on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim late-night programming block.[12]

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.[13] One resident said that the police response was "silly and insane," and that "We re the laughing stock."[14] 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."[12] The same devices had been distributed in nine other cities across the USA without provoking a similar reaction.[14] The United States Department of Homeland Security praised Boston authorities "for sharing their knowledge quickly with Washington officials and the public."[15]

"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.[16] 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 [17]

Departmental organization

A Boston Police Special Operations Officer
A Boston Police Special Operations Officer
A Boston Police Cruiser on Beacon Street
Boston Police Department kiosk in Downtown Crossing
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 mi (232.1 km ) and a population of 589,141. 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.[3]

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.[18]

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. Superintendent William Evans is the commander of BFS.

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

Other bureaus include the Bureau of Administrative Services, led by a civilian, Christopher Fox, and the Bureau of Professional Standards and Development, which encompasses the Training and Education Division, Internal Affairs and Anti-Corruption, headed by Superintendent Kenneth Fong.

The Boston Police rank structure is as follows:

  • Police Officer/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.
  • Sergeant/Sergeant Detective
    • Certain jobs within the department are designated as Detective Supervisor jobs (District Det. Supervisor, Sexual Assault Unit, Domestic Violence, etc.); thus, Detective Supervisors earn their "rating" after serving a certain amount of time in said role.
  • Lieutenant/Lieutenant Detective
    • Certain jobs within the department are designated as Detective Supervisor jobs (District Det. Supervisor, Sexual Assault Unit, Domestic Violence, etc.), thus, Detective Supervisors earn their "rating" after serving a certain amount of time in said role.
  • Captain/Captain Detective
    • Certain jobs within the department are designated as Detective Supervisor jobs (District Det. Supervisor, Sexual Assault Unit, Domestic Violence, etc.), thus, Detective Supervisors earn their "rating" after serving a certain amount of time in said role.
  • Deputy Superintendent
  • Superintendent
  • Superintendent In Chief (This position is not always utilized)
  • Commissioner (civilian)

Deputy Superintendents and above serve at the pleasure of the Police Commissioner and in the case of the Commissioner, the Mayor.

The Superintendent In Chief is Daniel Linskey, a career BPD officer.

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, An Garda Sioch na. Upon her departure, Albert Goslin was appointed acting commissioner.


The Boston Police Commissioner is Edward F. Davis III, who was Chief of Police for the Lowell Police Department in Lowell, Massachusetts. Prior to this appointment, Davis was known in Lowell for his effective community policing efforts. His appointment to the Boston Police Department brought in a renewed era of policing in the city of Boston.[3]

List of Boston Police Commissioners

  • William H. H. Emmons: 1903 1906
  • Stephen O'Meara: 1906 1918 *
  • Edwin Upton Curtis: 1918 1922
  • Herbert A. Wilson: 1922 1930
  • Eugene Hultman: 1930 1934
  • Joseph J. Leonard: 1934 1935
  • Eugene M. McSweeney: 1935 1936
  • Joseph F. Timilty: November 25, 1936 March 27, 1943
  • Thomas S. J. Kavanagh (Acting): March 27, 1943 June 5, 1943
  • Joseph F. Timilty: June 5, 1943 November 25, 1943
  • Thomas F. Sullivan: November 26, 1943 August 27, 1957
  • James F. Daley: August 27, 1957 September 4, 1957 (Acting)
  • Leo J. Sullivan: September 4, 1957 March 15, 1962
  • Francis J. Hennessy: March 15, 1962 April 6, 1962 (Acting)
  • Edmund L. McNamara: April 6, 1962 May 1, 1972
  • William J. Taylor: May 1, 1972 November 1, 1972 (Acting)
  • Robert J. DiGrazia: November 1, 1972 November 15, 1976
  • Joseph M. Jordan: November 15, 1976 February 1, 1985
  • Francis Roache: February 1, 1985 March 13, 1985 (Acting)
  • Francis Roache: March 13, 1985 June 30, 1993
  • William J. Bratton: June 30, 1993 January 10, 1994
  • Paul F. Evans: January 10, 1994 February 15, 1994 (Acting)
  • Paul F. Evans: February 15, 1994 November 14, 2003
  • James Hussey: November 14, 2003 February 19, 2004 (Acting)
  • Kathleen O'Toole: February 19, 2004 May 31, 2006
  • Al Goslin: May 31, 2006-December 5, 2006 (Acting)
  • Edward F. Davis III: December 5, 2006 present


The following is a list of districts that the BPD serves:[19]

District A-1

  • Serves: Downtown, Beacon Hill, Charlestown (investigations and community service), Chinatown, North End, West End, Leather District, Bay Village, and the Downtown Waterfront.
  • Station: 40 Sudbury Street, Boston, MA 02114
  • Commanded by: Captain Bernard O'Rourke

District A-7

  • Serves: East Boston
  • Station: 69 Paris Street, East Boston, MA 02128
  • Commanded by: Captain Frank Mancini

District A-15

  • Serves: Charlestown
  • Station: 40 Sudbury Street Boston, MA 02114
  • Commanded by: Captain Bernard O'Rourke

District B-2

  • Serves: Roxbury/Mission Hill
  • Station: 135 Dudley Street, Roxbury, MA 02119
  • Commanded by: Captain John Davin

District B-3

  • Serves: Mattapan/North Dorchester
  • Station: 1165 Blue Hill Avenue, Dorchester, MA 02124
  • Commanded by: Captain Joseph Boyle

District C-6

  • Serves: South Boston
  • Station: 101 West Broadway, South Boston, MA 02127
  • Commanded by: Captain John Greland

District C-11

  • Serves: Dorchester
  • Station: 40 Gibson Street, Dorchester, MA 02122
  • Commanded by: Captain Richard Sexton

District D-4

  • Serves: Back Bay/South End/Fenway
  • Station: 650 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA 02116
  • Commanded by: Captain Paul M. Ivens

District D-14

  • Serves: Allston/Brighton
  • Commanded by: Captain James Hussey

District E-5

  • Serves: West Roxbury/Roslindale
  • Commanded by: Captain James Hasson

District E-13

  • Serves: Jamaica Plain
  • Station: 3345 Washington Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
  • Commanded by: Captain Paul Russell

District E-18

  • Serves: Hyde Park
  • Station: 1249 Hyde Park Avenue, Hyde Park, MA 02136
  • Commanded by: Captain Robert W. Ciccolo


A member of the Boston Police Special Operations Unit
A member of the Boston Police Special Operations Unit

The following is a list of the divisions of the BPD:[20]

  • The Crime Laboratory Unit is part of the Forensic Technology Division. The Crime Lab provides services to the City of Boston, MBTA, and several of the colleges and universities in Boston.
  • The Family Justice Division consists of the following units within the Boston Police Department:
    • Crimes Against Children Unit
    • Domestic Violence Unit
    • Sexual Assault Unit
  • Media Relations is a part of the Office of the Police Commissioner. Media Relations provides public information to local and national media outlets, conducts news conferences and interviews, and provides Department spokespersons to ensure that the public receives timely and accurate information about department-related activities, programs, services and personnel.
  • Internal Affairs investigates incidents of alleged police misconduct; reviews complaint investigations to ensure that investigations are thorough and complete; analyzes all complaint data; and proactively assists in the development of needed training modules.
  • The Boston Police Harbor Unit, led by the harbormaster, patrols the harbor daily to ensure that both commercial and recreational use of the harbor and its islands is safe. The unit also enforces maritime codes and environmental regulations as they apply to these waters.
  • The Hackney Carriage Unit is responsible for regulating all taxis, sightseeing automobiles, horse and carriages, and pedicabs in the city of Boston. They are constantly striving to improve the safety, quality and professionalism of these vital industries.[21]
  • Boston Police Special Operations Unit is a specialized unit within the Boston Police Department responsible for combined duties involving highway patrol and traffic enforcement, crowd control, and special weapons and tactics (SWAT) services within the city. One unique feature of the unit is that the Special Operations Unit primarily relies on the use of Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors and Harley-Davidsons in their daily patrols. The use of motorcycles allows the unit to perform routine traffic enforcement; accompany parades, crowds, and visiting dignitaries; and to quickly travel to situations wherein the unit's SWAT skills are requested. Specialized trucks and support vehicles are also used to transport equipment and officers when needed.
  • Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes & Drums. Founded in 1992, The Boston Police Gaelic Column is an independent, non-profit organization consisting of Boston Police officers and law enforcement officers from the greater Boston area. The Gaelic Column is affiliated with the Boston Police Department but is funded entirely through the efforts of its members and supporters.They perform at Boston Police events, parades and other events throughout the Boston area.[22]



Boston police officers may carry "only weapons, magazines and ammunition authorized and issued by the Department", which "include, but are not limited to":[23]

  • Glock Model 22[23] (.40 S&W)
  • Glock Model 23[23] (.40 S&W)
  • Glock Model 27[23] (.40 S&W)
  • SIG Sauer SIG Sauer GSR 1911 in .45 ACP[24][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 are used even more widely today under the leadership of Police Commissioner Davis. Under his command Patrol Supervisors and police officers who are normally assigned to administrative duties are encouraged to perform a foot patrol. This type of patrol assignment is referred to as a Code 19.


By gender
  • Male: 87%
  • Female: 13%
By race
  • White: 68%
  • African-American/Black: 24%
  • Hispanic: 6%
  • Asian: 2%[26]

Fictional portrayals

The Boston Police Department has been portrayed in several prominent motion pictures including Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River, Edge of Darkness, Blown Away, The Brinks Job, I Hate You, Dad and The Town. BPD is also featured in the television series 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-8
  • Featured in
    • I Hate You, Dad outside a housing project
    • The Town throughout the film
    • Boston's Finest outside Truck's house after the raid
District D-6
  • Featured in
    • The Town outside Fenway Park during the final gunfight scene
District G-5
  • Featured in
    • Edge of Darkness outside Craven's house as part of a protection detail

See also

  • List of law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts
  • Boston Police Special Operations Unit


Further reading

External links

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