Short-Staffed ‘Boston Police Department Is in a Dire Position,' Commissioner Says

Recruiting and retaining officers continues to be a concern across the country, not just in Boston and other big cities, according to the president of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police

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The Boston Police Department is in what its leader is calling a "dire" need to fill positions, as he asks neighbors for help.

Commissioner Michael Cox is asking other departments to consider lateral transfers before the busy summer season, a request that hasn't happened in more than 15 years.

"I regret that we have to take this step, but the Boston Police Department is in a dire position," Cox wrote to the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association in a letter last week.

The department has about 220 fewer sworn members year-over-year, a department representative said. More retirements are expected in January and this summer, and while about 200 new recruits are expected to be trained this year, their training will take them into next winter.

Michael Cox, sworn in three months ago as Boston's top cop, talks about how the department is addressing the recent uptick in gun violence in the city.

Cox's letter wasn't entirely surprising to Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque, who is president of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police. But he said the request wasn't likely to bring in many officers.

"I know, for us, we're not likely to allow someone to leave," he said.

That's because recruiting and retaining officers continues to be a concern across the country, not just in Boston and other big cities, he said. And after putting in the funding to train recruits, municipalities likely wouldn't want them to leave.

But he didn't think a public safety worker shortage will impact public safety.

"We're just trying to do our due diligence and get enough police officers out there," Vasque said.

Getting in more officers is about the right incentives, according to security expert Todd McGhee.

"It would be up to Mayor [Michelle] Wu and the commissioner to be able to entice individuals that are seeking employment and may not have thought of public safety as a career choice," he said.

The Boston Police Department has a requirement that officers live in the city for 10 years before they can move out. The policy has been altered slightly for lateral moves — Boston residency would still be required within six months of appointment.

McGhee feels residency in a neighboring jurisdiction could certainly help, or at least some form of housing incentive.

The Boston Police Patrolman's Association issued a statement saying, "We are short hundreds of police officers and help is long overdue. But, attracting qualified applicants hinges on competitive wages, benefits and an enhanced quality of life. And right now, if we're being honest with ourselves, the City of Boston just doesn’t measure up."

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