Shortage of Boston Police Officers May Be Affecting Police Details

One would think a monumental project like the Sumner Tunnel restoration project would come with a certain level of research and planning.

If it had, MassDOT would have realized the Boston Police Department (BPD) is experiencing a staff shortage and calling for more police to be hired.

In a letter to the BPD and Mayor Michelle Wu, the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (BPPA) said the BPD can barely cover regular shift work–nevermind police details for construction projects like the Sumner Tunnel project.

While State Troopers would provide police details on the state roads leading into the mouth of the Ted Williams Tunnel to keep traffic flowing while the Sumner is closed on the weekends, BPD details would be on hand in the neighborhood to ensure overflow traffic in places like Day Square would move a little more efficiently.

However, the past two weekends there’s been an obvious lack of BPD details and traffic has wreaked havoc in the neighborhood on the weekends when the Sumner is closed.

The root cause of this problem is the understaffed BPD and some feel MassDOT should have had a clear understanding of BPD staffing levels before beginning the project and promising comprehensive police details as the project moved forward.

“The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association condemns the Boston Police Department for ordering officers to work 24 hours in a row this past Saturday. It is unsafe for officers to be forced to work for 24 hours straight, and demonstrates the gross understaffing in the Police Department. The BPPA calls upon the City to immediately take actions to increase the number of sworn members of the BPD to levels that will allow for safe staffing

On Saturday, due partially to the City’s “block party in Jamaica Plain, coupled with the Red Sox game and a festival in the Seaport, the BPD had over 120 officers working on an overtime basis,” said the BPPA’s letter obtained by the East Boston Times. “The vast majority of the officers working overtime were ordered to do so (meaning it was involuntary), and the majority were ordered for at least 16 hours, which is physically and psychologically draining. However, a number of officers were actually ordered to work three shifts in a row-or 24 hours straight.”

The BPPA reported at least five officers were also ordered to work 24 hours back on Saturday June 25.

“This is simply unsafe and cannot be allowed to occur,” the letter continued. “Officers simply cannot work for that many hours and still be expected to make split second decisions in life threatening situations. While many have called for a reduction in the BPD’s Overtime budget, this crisis demonstrates why the City spends so much on overtime-there simply aren’t enough officers working for the BPD.”

The BPPA said given the crisis staffing levels at the BPD, it is irresponsible of the City to permit multiple events on the same day, which leads to resources being spread thin and unsafe mandatory ordering

BPPA President Lawrence Calderone urged the hiring of more officers. “The BPPA has been calling on the City to hire more cops for years. The chronic understaffing of the BPD is now resulting in the unsafe situation of officers being ordered to work 24 hours straight. This is utterly unacceptable; the City is gambling with the safety of our community and our members by these reckless staffing decisions. We demand that the department cease unsafe staffing and hire more officers!”

It seems clear now why BPD officers have been unable, or unwilling, to sign up for details in Eastie on the weekend during the Sumner closures when they’ve been forced to work mandatory overtime shifts all week long. One officer, who wished to remain anonymous, reported, “Officers are not going to sign up for a detail in East Boston on the weekend, especially if they’ve worked mandatory overtime and resources are being sent to other neighborhoods to cover understaffed stations during events.”

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