Report: Boston Police Need to Diversify Ranks, Rein in Overtime Spending

A new report outlines where the BPD can improve.

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans (Photo via AP)

A recently completed outside audit of the Boston Police Department found the agency needs to diversify its ranks to more accurately reflect the changing face of the city, rein in overtime assignments, create a capital plan to improve the department’s physical assets, and reduce technical redundancies.

The December audit by Public Safety Strategies Group stressed the department has made strides in diversifying its ranks since the late 20th century, but it still has a long way to go to reflect the makeup of the city. ” While the number of diverse members has risen slightly, the composition of the department still does not reflect the community. Two factors contribute to this issue. One is the lack of a formal recruiting plan and the other is the residency requirement,” read the report.

The comprehensive review recommended the department develop a recruiting plan that involves local colleges and has a message police can use to to connect with minority communities. It also suggested targeting specific neighborhoods for recruitment and reconsidering the residency requirement for police officers. Even with steady improvements in the department’s diversity, it’s still nearly two-thirds white while the city’s population is now majority-minority.

A widespread practice of “generating unnecessary overtime that meets the hours allocated rather than requiring justification of need for the overtime prior to scheduling” needs to be redesigned because the current system does not have a “high degree of accountability.” The audit found the way overtime is allocated is not consistent with what is actually needed by  divisions within the department. The situation is so out of control that some police department employees are working enough overtime that it appears as if they are working a second full-time job.

“This high level of overtime is occurring despite the department experiencing its highest level of staffing in recent years and a relatively low crime rate,” read the report.

The department’s physical facilities in many parts of the city also need to be overhauled, but there is no existing capital plan to address these pressing needs. The report found many police facilities are in poor condition and out of step with the current needs of the department. The department currently lacks a method for requesting physical repairs, adding to a sense of frustration over the state of the department’s infrastructure. The outdatedness of many of the department’s district stations and substations has created a situation where certain districts are understaffed relative to population. “Many facilities are in dire need of replacement or upgrades,” read the report.

The audit of the department found significant overlap between the technical capabilities of the city and the police department, a situation that creates unnecessary redundancies. “The department has its own in-house information systems group comprised of both sworn and civilian members, and the city also has an IT department. The redundant efforts create unnecessary duplication; the city needs to consider consolidation of efforts while maintaining input from the department,” according to the report.