EXCLUSIVE: Top Cop Makes Waves Downsizing Specialized Units and Launching Specially Trained Officers Back onto Patrol Less Than a Week After Appointment

In a shocking first move, Live Boston has obtained copies of orders from the newly appointed Boston Police Commissioner, Michael Cox, which list over two dozen officers who are being launched from specialized units back onto the street in what many are calling a politically motivated “stunt”. This move is predicted to heavily impact lower income, minority and at-risk communities most as that is where many of the officers focused their resources such as Methadone Mile and gang violence. Some sources claim that this is in response to the MBTA debacle that is expected to severely impact Boston; however, we have been unable to confirm this and it is unknown why Transit Police would not be handling it themselves. Others claim it is the first steps in dismantling these specialized units all together.

Rather than address the real problems of being dangerously understaffed and overworked along with a mounting attrition rate, Cox has seemingly attempted a previously failing strategy in which specialized units such as the Gang, Fugitive, Drug Units, as well as others, are robbed of their highly trained officers to help ease the understaffing of area Districts. A former member of the Boston Police Command staff who spoke to us on the grounds of anonymity described it as “stealing from the poor to give to the rich” with these reassignments doing nothing to actually address any issues, but instead further hurting specialty units who have a greater impact helping more disadvantaged communities.

Wu, and others on city council have frequently talked about disbanding specialized units within the Boston Police Department, and it seems as if Commissioner Cox took no pause before bending to the will of his political masters. In the order a total of twenty-five officers are listed to be reassigned as of tomorrow, Saturday, August 20th. Sources within the department tell us many of the officers on the list were unaware of this upcoming order until mere hours before it was sent out department-wide, leaving them scrambling to make arrangements for their child care, loved ones and life.

The Auto Theft Unit, which is a small (roughly five officers) and highly trained group of Officers, focus on numerous vehicle related crimes, but is best known as the tip of the spear when it comes to combating the City’s plague of illegal dirt bikes, mopeds and scooters which are often tied into violent crimes, lost two of their officers who have over a decade of combined experience. One was assigned back to Roxbury and the other Downtown.

Two members from the City Wide Bike Unit, who assist all districts and work on directed patrols, as well as special events, were launched from their unit which is already stretched thin. The Bike Unit, which is a middle ground between officers walking a beat and patrolling in their cruiser, allows officers to meet members of the public and get community insight into the needs of neighborhoods, something Cox ironically claimed would be a priority. The two members who were unexpectedly reassigned have over half a century of experience on the job. In 2009, one of the officers even received The Department Medal Of Honor.

Squad Two of the City Wide Drug Control Unit is internally known as the ‘OD Squad’ with a group of five or six detectives and police officers dedicated to working with the families and loved ones of fatal overdose victims to track down suppliers and distributors and hold them accountable. Additionally, they are often seen on Methadone Mile, a hotbed of narcotics sales, prostitution, and other crimes, where they operate in a plainclothes and undercover capacity to take down some of the cities most prolific drug dealers. Two of their members were launched from the squad this afternoon, both with years of experience and specialized training. In 2019, both Officers came under fire, leaving one officer shot twice. They went on to receive numerous commendations and awards including the 2019 George L. Hanna Memorial Award for Bravery — the state’s highest and most prestigious honor for bravery — for their “act of heroism in the face of grave danger.” The pair went on to also receive the honor of being named 2020’s TOP COPS for Massachusetts by the National Association of Police Organizations.

Two members of the highly trained Crime Scene Response Unit, the group of investigative specialists who process and collect evidence of Boston’s most heinous and high-profile crimes and murders, were also included in today’s order. This unit is so highly trained that it can take nearly half a year for members to complete their basic training, not even including their advanced and other schooling that they attend throughout their time in the Unit. Just like many of the others reassigned today, one of the officers from this unit holds a Commissioner’s Commendation after he saved the lives of two Park Rangers after they were stabbed on the Boston Common. Combined, these two officers have over twenty-five years of experience.

The Evidence Control Unit and Video Evidence Unit, although not flashy, are a highly important group of Officers who are vital to the continued operation of the Department. Responsible for the management and maintenance of the BPD camera/video system, the VEU processes all requests for BPD camera system videos that involve BPD Districts, Units and BPD Facilities as well as the Body Worn Camera system. Four Officers in total have been yanked out of their positions and reassigned to Districts leaving many concerns over the Department’s availability going forward to not just respond to requests for BWC records, but also the ability to produce evidence for trials, which is vital.

One of the craziest moves made in this new order was the reassignment of a Street Outreach Officer, in a move that came as a surprise to many experts. The Wu administration has continually claimed to be committed to working with City Agencies to clean up the area of Mass and Cass as well as tackle homelessness. This move seems to completely contradict that narrative, with a downsizing of resources set to work with community groups, health experts and shelters. Again this draws the question of who are these transfers truly set to help, because clearly it is not those in the City’s most at-risk populations.

Another puzzling move made in Commissioner Cox’s personnel order is the transferring of two members of the Youth Violence Strike Force, or Gang Unit. The Gang Unit, which is responsible for hundreds of firearm and related arrests each year, is at the forefront of combating this City’s gun violence crisis. Less than a decade ago, the Gang Unit was home to nearly 100 Officers; today, the Unit still manages to make an impact with a severely understaffed 40 or so officers. According to sources close to the Unit, two or three officers won’t make a major staffing impact at a district, but even the transfer of just two of their highly knowledgeable and experienced officers could be the difference between a gun arrest and a gang murder.

The two Gang Unit officers listed on the order ironically were the driving force behind Tuesday night’s arrest of a known Latin Kings player in South Boston that ended in a recovery of an illegal firearm. In addition to the hundreds of guns the officers listed have seized off the street during their careers and the extensive knowledge they possess of gangs within Boston (something the department regularly tries to avoid disclosing or admitting their existence), both men have countless awards including the Commissioner’s Commendation and the Department Medal of Honor. Law enforcement experts we talked to warned that this could be a slippery slope that leads to the politically motivated dispansion of the Gang Unit which would severely and disproportionately impact neighborhoods of color and are considered low-income communities.

In similar fashion to the Gang Unit, the order also included transferring members of Boston’s highly respected Fugitive Unit. Reporting directly to the Homicide Unit Commander, this group of top-tier cops is responsible for tracking and prosecuting persons wanted as Fugitives from Justice for some of the City’s worst crimes. The unit is comprised of the Investigations/Rendition Squad and the Apprehension/HIDT Squad. The list of major arrests carried out by this unit is too long to list but includes murders, rapists, pedophiles, and others. The members transferred from this unit have a combined 25 years of experience and have come from other units such as the Gang Unit. Additionally, the members have received multiple awards including the 2017 Police Officer of the Year Award, as well as the 2016 Medal of Valor – the State’s second highest award for bravery. 

On top of the Officers who are on the front lines of Boston Police’s continued fight against gun violence, drug deaths and other heinous crimes are the men and women who work daily to keep the department running. Included in this order were officers from multiple vital administrative and training positions such as the academy, media relations (an office we deal with daily and is currently muddled in numerous lawsuits for failing to adhere to public records laws which the Department ironically blames on understaffing), as well as others, such as the Police Commissioner’s own Office.

The real shock in all of this though are the Units that remained relatively untouched, such as the Bureau of Community Engagement, best known for their basketball games and ice cream truck. It would appear to most as if the Commissioner is desperately trying to fulfill political promises and debts with City Hall while keeping the image of a functioning, community-friendly department intact.

At the end of the day sources familiar with the order say that many have been told these assignment will only be temporary and it is for show at most, leaving the real question remaining. Why even participate in such a charade? Will Commissioner Cox step up and do what is right for his rank and file? Will he demand more bodies be hired rather than play a political shell game of shuffling officers from Units who can’t spare them? Or will he instead continue to play games with the lives and careers of his officers…