Get mugged, have a purse snatched or a car broken into, well, just call a cop, right?
That is, unless it happens in Boston’s burgeoning Seaport District, where “policing” is still a muddle when it comes to territory, much of which remains officially Massport turf (along with Logan Airport) and, therefore, under the jurisdiction of the State Police instead of local cops.
That arrangement dates back to an earlier era, when what is now the Seaport neighborhood was a tangle of old wharves and parking lots. But the Seaport today is an urban village on track to be home to some 20,000 people in less than a decade. It’s every bit a part of Boston, and should be treated that way. A home rule petition filed on Beacon Hill would end the lingering jurisdictional dispute in the interest of public safety, and the Legislature should approve it.
It would alter a 1996 statute, under which the Massachusetts State Police have sole jurisdiction over Massport property, including vast swaths of land now developed for hotels, restaurants, office buildings, and residences in the Seaport District.
Not only has the neighborhood changed greatly since then — so has the political climate. It was before the State Police became embroiled in an overtime scandal that resulted in criminal charges against at least 10 members of the force. And it was before several members of Troop F, the troop given the plum Massport assignment, began racking up overtime that sent the salaries of some soaring over $300,000 a year for several years and resulted in dozens earning more than $200,000 a year.
The way the arrangement affects Massport’s finances is also worth considering. At a meeting of the Massport Board in April 2018, a presentation to the board posed the question, “Could reassignment of Seaport troopers to Logan reduce Logan overtime and allow new arrangements at [the] Seaport?”
Good question — and one that more than a year later remains unanswered. Nor has Governor Charlie Baker or his hand-picked choice to head the State Police, Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin, followed through on a pledge made at the same time to create “a plan for the Boston Police Department and State Police to work together to ensure the safety of the Seaport District.” City officials confirm, “There are no active negotiations at this time.”
Underlying the dispute are those much-coveted and lucrative private details and overtime pay on which troopers now have dibs. Boston police officials long ago said they’d be happy for the Staties to continue to patrol the roads and cash in on details. They just want to be able to do their job on the ground in the same way they do in Dorchester and Back Bay and Roslindale. They also want to end squabbles that detract from public safety, like one reported in the Globe last year when state and Boston cops lost 90 minutes arguing over who should respond when a dead body was found at a dock in the Seaport.
It’s ultimately on the Legislature to make the change the city requested in the home rule petition — but that doesn’t mean others can’t speak up. New Massport CEO Lisa Wieland should let lawmakers know that her agency would indeed welcome the possibility of financial relief from some of that State Police overtime. Baker too could surely put a little political capital behind this modest reform effort — one that he actually promised to look into a year ago.
This isn’t the first year the city has filed a bill to make that happen — to provide for concurrent jurisdiction with the State Police in the Seaport District — but it should be the last time Boston has to go begging the state to do the right thing.