Leaked Flyer Shows Boston Police Department Gearing Up to Begin Recruiting Campaign of Lateral Transfers from Outside Departments

Earlier this afternoon, a leaked recruiting handout, which included some typos, began to spread like wildfire within law enforcement circles in the greater Boston area. The flyer stated that the Boston Police Department is, “Accepting applications to hire full time experienced civil service police officers through the lateral transfer process”. According to a Boston Police spokesperson we spoke with, they strongly refuted the flyer, claiming that the Department has not made any official change to their policy regarding hiring at this time however numerous high level sources within the Department tell another story.

Facing all time low morale, staffing shortages, extended tours of duty, and unfilled assignments, leadership within the department is at its wits end according to numerous Command Staff and Department Leaders we spoke with. These same leaders tell us that they are hopeful but far from confident that this look to outside labor will help remedy the situation. With the department facing record high attrition rates and the looming threat of the hundreds of members who could retire at any given time, and a continued attack from social groups and elected officials the Department has been teetering on a full blown crisis for a while now.

The city actually has an ordinance on the books that states as of July 1, 1980 the Police Department should have a minimum staffing of 2,500 officers, as of today that number is hundreds short. The Department claims roughly 2,100 officers are currently on the books, however sources we spoke with say those numbers do not accurately represent the facts. The head count from the Department includes those out of work for injury or other reasons. The general opinion is that the number is closer to 1,600 to 1,800 Officer actually working, although the department would not confirm.

One member of the Command Staff we spoke to earlier this afternoon said, “No one wants to be a cop any more, and the few that do quickly change their tone after a few years on the job.” The department leader who spoke with us under the agreement of not being named went on to talk about the frustrations of policing in the City of Boston, “These young and eager new recruits are coming into this job with a passion to serve and are being met with hostility, longer than expected hours, and a lack of support from the department.” 

During the summer the Boston Police Patrolman’s Association, the union which represents the largest group of uniformed police officers, slammed low-staffing levels which forced officers to work doubles and even triples up to a full 24 hour period. In an interview with the Herald, the union’s president Larry Calderone said, “The BPPA has been calling on the City to hire more cops for years. The chronic understaffing of the BPD is now resulting in the unsafe situation of officers being ordered to work 24 hours straight. This is utterly unacceptable; the City is gambling with the safety of our community and our members by these reckless staffing decisions.”

As it relates to the process of laterals, this is not a completely new situation for the Boston Police Department, in 2007 then Commissioner Edward F. Davis also attempted to open the process of lateral transfers saying in a letter, “Many jurisdictions are experiencing difficulties in acquiring a qualified pool of candidates to the position of Police Officer from current civil service lists, and at this point we have exhausted that list.” In 2007, reports indicated that the plan would both require the sign off from Boston City Council as well as the Chief of the Department that the lateral candidate was transferring from. It is unclear if this process actually went on and if any officers were hired.

In 2007 Boston City Councilor at Large Michael Flaherty when asked about the move went on the record and challenged it saying, “I want to know why it’s been determined that we don’t have qualified candidates right here in Boston,” he said. “We have to look at other mechanisms before we consider lateral transfers.” We have reached out to multiple City Council members who were unable to give any statements at this time given the lack of information surrounding the move, however numerous insiders questioned if the department could even do this without City Council’s approval. As usual, Mayor Wu’s press office did not even respond to the request for comment.

For now the question remains open of when, if at all, the Department will officially announce its intentions to recruit lateral candidates with many questions still unanswered on how that process will look and whether it will affect the ongoing bargaining between the City and the three police unions who remain out of contract.