Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans today swore in what officials called the most diverse command staff in the city’s history, promoting 12 officers, including Superintendent-in-Chief William G. Gross, the department’s first African-American second-in-command.
“It’s something like 350 years of experience here coming onto the command staff,” said Evans of the officers’ combined years of service in remarks at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Dorchester. “I have probably the most experienced, diverse command staff that any Commissioner could want, and I’m very proud of the team we’ve put together.”
Both Evans and Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who also spoke, said the department would emphasize community policing in the fight against the recent spike in violence the city has seen this year, which includes Friday’s apparently accidental shooting of 9-year-old Jan Marcos Peña of Mattapan by his 14-year-old brother.
Walsh repeated his promise to organize a gun buyback program. “We’ve made progress in important areas, but everyone knows that we can’t let up, especially in the communities that are hardest hit by violence,” he said. “We’ve seen recently how violence can escalate, and how destructive and tragic illegal guns can be. We have to get these illegal guns off the street.”
The month of January saw nine homicides, the bloodiest January in several years. In 2008, the city saw eight killings in January. Many of the killings appear to have been gang-related, according to police.
On Monday, the 14-year-old boy was held on $50,000 bail on charges of involuntary manslaughter and unlawful possession of a firearm in connection with the shooting death of Jan Marcos Peña in their apartment.
While homicides are up this year compared with last year, non-fatal shootings have dropped. The overall rate of major crimes including robbery, rape, and burglary has dropped by 5 percent this year, according to Officer James Kenneally, a police spokesman.
Evans said in an interview before the swearing-in that he wants more foot and bike patrols, and officers in schools, parks and playgrounds to interact with young people and build trust and relationships. Many officials said it was important for police to work with community members.
“There’s the police end of the business, but in dealing with the police end of the business, there’s also the community end of the business,” said Superintendent Robert M. Merner, who was promoted from lieutenant detective and commander of the drug control unit to superintendent of the Bureau of Investigative Services.
His goal as superintendent, he said after the ceremony, “is to bring everything into line as far as dealing with forensics, interview, interrogation, eyewitness identification, and incorporate all of that with the philosophy of community policing.”
After the ceremony, Gross, who has been acting as Superintendent-in-Chief since January, said he was eager to serve, and that his top goals were to reduce gun violence and help support families—challenges that he said are intertwined.
“Our goal is this: to ensure that no family member has to lose their sons and daughters to gang or street violence,” said Gross. “We strongly believe that if we, as a village, come together to help families in need, their children don’t have to go outside the family to seek those extended families that we call gangs. We can’t arrest the problem away.”