Power Lunch: Boston Police Commissioner William Evans

The city’s top cop on body cameras, legalized weed, and why Patriots Day actor James Colby needs to drop 50 pounds.

boston police commissioner william evans

Photographs by Ken Richardson

Before Boston wakes up, Police Commissioner William Evans is running through the streets. Every day he’s out of his Southie home before 5 a.m, logging enough miles to make an ironman jealous. Going for a run is his form of therapy, a sure-fire way to relieve stress—something there’s plenty of when you’re leading a police force at a time when the country is rife with law-enforcement controversy. A few days before Evans ran his 50th marathon, in Maine, he sat down at Victoria’s Diner for grilled bagels with Chris Sweeney, offering an insider’s look at the BPD.

What’s the biggest threat facing Boston on any given day?

The amount of guns on the street. Me and Mayor Walsh have said that from day one. Massachusetts has some great, tough gun laws, but you can go to Maine and New Hampshire and down the I-95 pipeline. We need to have universal gun laws.

The city typically sees a spike in violent crime during the summer. You’ve made progress over the past two years. What are you doing to build on it?

Honestly, with everything that’s going on around the nation—Ferguson, New York, Chicago—it’s real important to get out there and build trust and respect in the neighborhood. We do a lot of youth dialogues; we do coffee with an officer; we do flashlight walks. Last year we did 55 peace walks; I was out 45 of those nights, walking through the neighborhoods, meeting the community, and it was very positive.

You’ve said that you see the upside of police wearing body cameras, but you hope your force doesn’t need them. Can you elaborate?

I believe we’re going toward body cameras. But I’ve said a million times, all it is is a gadget. It’s not going to solve the deep-rooted mistrust between the community and the police. Being out there in the schools with the kids, in the playgrounds, doing home visits like we do, and getting these kids jobs and giving them opportunities—that’s the solution. It’s not just putting a gadget on and thinking these problems that have been around for years are going to go away.

Boston Globe or Boston Herald?

I don’t know if I want to say it, but I like the Globe. I like reading the Globe because I think they have a wider net. You can read about what’s happening in Greece or what’s happening in Syria, so I think I get a broader picture of the world with the Globe. The Herald has great local coverage, but it doesn’t do anything global.

What goes through your mind when you hear someone like Donald Trump calling for a ban on Muslims?

It’s so unfortunate that people buy into this—99.9 percent of Muslims are good people, and there are as many radical white supremacists as there are radical Muslims out there. It’s unfortunate that he has to use such rhetoric to get votes.

Governor Baker, Mayor Walsh, and Attorney General Healey have been very vocal in their opposition to legalizing marijuana. Do you agree with them?

One hundred percent. We’re dealing with an opioid crisis that we’ve never had to deal with, and we’re seeing young kids dying on our streets every day—we need to get a hold on that. The last thing we need right now is to introduce a drug that can be abused and be used by kids. I think it sends the wrong message. Now I do agree 100 percent that people who need [marijuana] for medical reasons should have it.

Did you ever smoke pot as a kid?

[Laughs.] I’d rather not comment, but let’s just say I wasn’t an angel. I was your typical city kid—I didn’t have a whole lot. My parents died when I was very young; I slept in a bed with two of my brothers. I always look back, honestly, and just wish my dad were still alive so he could see what became of us. He did a great job of raising us.

What’s the greatest cop film of all time?

Well, you’re not going to like this: The Pink Panther. I’m not a big cop-movie guy, but I love Inspector Clouseau. He got the job done.

What do you think about actor James Colby being cast to play you in Patriots Day?

He’s a good guy. I’ve met him. He’s come up to the office. I’ve given him a tour. And believe it or not, he’s been down to the Shamrock with all of my brothers, and we had a couple of beers together.

What advice would you give him so he nails the part?

Speak in a Southie accent. Also, he’s got to lose some weight. He’s got to drop about 50 pounds.

You’ve been on the job for decades. What’s the most scared you’ve ever been?

I think on Boylston Street that day when I came back from running the race and saw what the bomb did. It’s something that I’ll never get out of my mind.