A police turf war is jeopardizing public safety in Boston's rapidly-growing Seaport District, the department's commissioner alleges.
"How do you keep Boston Police out of a major section of the city?" asked Boston Police Commissioner William Evans.
Evans voiced his concerns during testimony Monday before the Boston City Council at a special hearing chaired by Councilor-at-Large Steve Murphy.
"Boston Fire goes there, the Boston EMS, but because of some crazy state law, the Boston Police can't go there," he said.
That law – which city councilors are united in repeatedly trying to overturn - recognizes that the Seaport is Massachusetts Port Authority property, which in recent decades, has gone from the port business to real estate – in a big way. And so the area has been the jurisdiction of Massachusetts State Police and Massport Police, who also have jurisdiction over other Massport properties, such as Logan International Airport.
State police also historically have had jurisdiction over other park and highway areas, such as Storrow Drive and the Esplanade. That department was entirely in charge last week when a state police detail officer shot and killed a man who allegedly menaced him with a knife on a Storrow Drive footbridge.
But when it comes to the Seaport, in addition to high-rise lodgings, bars and restaurants that have sprung up, the area is now home to thousands of residents in high-rise condos - residents "Who pay city property taxes, but don't get city police services," according to Evans.
The police and the city council want concurrent – or shared – jurisdiction. Meanwhile, City Councilor Murphy says the current arrangement has given rise to some bizarre and troubling turf battles.
"State police and Boston Police nearly arrested one another on - both responding to something," said Murphy.
In one instance, a body stayed in the water for an hour and a half while the two departments bickered over jurisdiction. Sexual assault victims have been questioned by Boston Police, only to face a second round of questioning from state police.
Pat Rose of the Police Patrolman's Association noted that the Boston Police bomb squad had responded to a call regarding a suspicious package Sunday. Licensing and police safety inspection issues are also in limbo.
State police officials were invited to the hearing, but didn't show up and told necn they would have no comment.
Some have accused both sides of being motivated by lucrative traffic and construction details in the district. The commissioner denied that. He said his concern is over public safety and emergency reponse, in which "seconds can save lives."
The city council – most of whose members showed up for the hearing – plans to draft a resolution calling on the legislature to overturn the 1998 law giving state police exclusive Massport jurisdiction in the Seaport District. Meanwhile, Massport continues to acquire more waterfront property in East Boston and Charlestown
"What we're going to have is a city within a city," said Murphy.