The Missed Opportunity in Marty Walsh’s Pick for Police Commissioner

Bill Evans is a fine choice, but it would have been nice to conduct a search.

I come neither to praise nor to bury William Evans, Mayor Marty Walsh’s choice for Boston Police Commissioner. Evans, from what I know, is a good, solid leader who is well-liked and well-respected both within and, for the most part, outside the department. That’s important, although this is no longer quite the divided BPD of several years ago, when it was almost impossible to imagine an internal candidate ascending to the top post without thoroughly splitting the force, or setting off a purging of non-loyalists.

Tom Menino solved that problem, to the extent he could, by pulling in—after at least a pretense of a serious national search—Kathleen O’Toole and Ed Davis, who were close-by but unaffected by the BPD playground clique politics.

Walsh is not going through the pretense. As he had been signalling for some time, he is accepting Menino’s interim pick without a search. The move conveniently pleases the men and women in uniform—who, by my count, made at least 200 contributions totaling more than $40,000 to Walsh’s campaign this year, in addition to the endorsements and assistance of their unions. Evans is unlikely—barring pressure from Walsh—to do much to address the problems I recently outlined, particularly concerning IAD and other internal-review and -oversight issues.

What bothers me about this choice, ultimately, has nothing to do with Evans—I feel reasonably optimistic about him—and everything to do with the missed opportunity.

There are a lot of terrific top cops out there, many of whom view Boston as a dream opportunity, as I reported back in 2006, when the job last opened up. Menino, with his reputation for micromanaging (and distrust of outsiders), had difficulty recruiting them. Walsh had a golden opportunity to see what’s out there, while letting the capable Evans hold down the fort, as John McDonough is doing over at the Boston Public Schools.

Not to be. I wish best of luck to Evans, but it would have been nice to at least see what else is out there.