NEW YORK TIMES
By Katharine Q. Seelye
BOSTON — The violent confrontations between the police and minorities that have erupted in many cities over the last couple of years have created new pressures on police commanders across the country. Many of them were already dealing with issues of morale, recruitment and retention, and community relations. But Boston, a city with a history of racial tensions, has been comparatively calm.
Some attribute that to William B. Evans, Boston’s police commissioner, whose leadership style and close relationships with minority communities have been a stabilizing influence during these tumultuous times.
NYT: Boston has largely avoided the explosive violence and hostility between the police and minorities that have erupted in other cities. What’s your secret?
WE: We’ve built some great relationships over the last several years, especially with clergy, community leaders and residents. We’ve had three officer-involved shootings since I’ve been here. In each one, I brought in community leaders and showed them the video within a day or two. We’re trying to be open and transparent, and people have respected us for it.
NYT: There has been much talk of a “war on police.” Does that describe what you are seeing here?
WE: No. We go on peace walks, people are coming up to me, hugging me. They’re taking selfies. Everybody’s saying what a great job we’re doing. I don’t feel the “war on police.” I know it’s playing out across the country. … I go to the roll calls and tell the officers, “Don’t let what you’re hearing across the country get you down.” Ever since Dallas, I tell them, “Be careful out there and keep doing what you’re doing.” Over the last 18 months, , our crime is down 15 percent and our arrests are down 28 percent.
NYT: A new report says that only 10 percent of minority applicants ended up joining the most recent class of recruits. Critics say the department doesn’t reflect the city’s majority-minority status. Do you see that as a problem, and how are you addressing it?
WE: I’d love to increase diversity, but I have no control over the hiring. We go strictly by the Civil Service exam. Where I have made a difference is in my command staff. My superintendent in chief is the first African-American chief to run the Boston Police Department. My superintendents and deputies are 50 percent minority. For the first time, we have three minority captains running district police stations. When I came here, none of them were running them. So I’ve totally diversified the top command.
NYT: A recent survey found that 73 percent of Bostonians view the police in a positive light, but the racial breakdown showed a difference — 82 percent of whites have a positive view while 65 percent of blacks have a positive view. What explains that difference in perception?
WE: Sixty-five percent is very positive, given the environment we’ve experienced in America over the last two years. What’s going on around the country isn’t impacting the white community the way it is the minority community. Right now, blacks have some distrust of their police and it’s playing out here, there’s no doubt about it, but the fact that we’re still at 65 speaks volumes to all the community work we’re doing.
NYT: Would black parents have cause to worry if their child had an encounter with a Boston police officer?
WE: No. We’re out in the schools, in the ice cream trucks, we’re so much in the community that we have a level of trust with them. I would hope that if their kids had a negative interaction, they would come forward and we would address it.