Boston police commissioner tells Congress building trust is key to safety

Boston Police Commissioner William Evans watched counterprotesters near a "free speech" rally staged by conservative activists last month.
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans watched counterprotesters near a "free speech" rally staged by conservative activists last month.

Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans has a message for members of Congress: Learn how to improve safety in a post-Sept. 11 world by mirroring the connections the police department has forged with city residents.

“Only through continued and persistent engagement with our community can police build trust, leading to increased cooperation from the community,” Evans said in remarks prepared for his appearance Wednesday before the House Counterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee in Washington.

The panel, part of the House’s Homeland Security Committee, tapped Evans to discuss how, 16 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, law enforcement can continue to get tips about “suspicious activity and indicators of terrorism” from the public to help combat active terrorist activity.


Evans cited a series of programs, attitudes, and training underway in Boston within the department, launched by Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration or brought into the department from city residents.

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Those examples include apprenticeship training for gang members about to be freed from prison, aggressive use of social media, training officers to problem-solve in the neighborhoods where they work, and emphasizing “bias-free-policing” and de-escalation training within the department.

“I could give countless examples of times when a Boston police officer would have been justified in using deadly force, but given the situation determined deadly force was not necessary,’’ Evans said in his prepared remarks. “The department’s emphasis on de-escalation has only served to increase the public’s trust in the department.”

Evans also cited programs that connect officers to children, the “coffee with a cop” program and the summer-time “Operation Hoodsie Cup” as ways the department has built relationships with residents at a young age, with the hope it persists into adulthood.

He said Part One crime — the most serious crimes according to FBI record keeping — has dropped 31 percent between 2007 and 2016, and arrests have declined by 51 percent during the same timeframe.


“The success of the department is directly attributable to increased trust with the community through relationship building, information sharing and increased awareness and training,’’ Evans said. “Police need the trust and faith of the community they serve to effectively prevent, respond to, and solve crimes.”

John R. Ellement can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.