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Turf war erupts in Seaport District

Boston Police Department Fights for Control

By Michele McPhee  |   Wednesday, June 22, 2011  |  http://www.bostonherald.com

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Photo by Ted Ancher

A public safety power struggle has erupted in the South Boston Seaport, prompting Mayor Thomas M. Menino and BPD Commissioner Edward F. Davis to turn to Beacon Hill to change a 15-year-old law that gives the state police control over the burgeoning waterfront neighborhood, the Herald has learned.

Boston cops respond to 911 calls placed from the residential buildings, investigate licensing issues at the area’s eateries and get called to domestic violence incidents but have no arrest powers once they get there. State police brass said they have patrolled the area effectively with Massport cops for decades and are equipped to deal with every 911 call without the BPD’s help.

The turf war is the result of legislation that was passed by lawmakers 15 years ago to prevent Massport from hiring private security companies and now requires the use of state police at all Massport properties, such as the Seaport and Logan International Airport.

“We have no power to enforce the law in an area in the city of Boston. Operationally it’s a huge, huge problem that requires a legislative fix,’’ said Davis, who lived in a high-rise building in the Seaport when he arrived at Boston. He did not have arrest powers, nor did his cops, if there was an incident there.

“Our officers get a call for a domestic violence incident or a sexual assault, we respond to the scene and we can’t do anything,’’ he said. “This is not a case of us trying to infringe upon the state police, but no agency can handle any contingency. It’s a frustrating situation for everyone.”

That frustration has created friction between troopers and cops who are called to the scenes of the same crimes. And right now, the staties have all of the power.

“Long-standing legislation grants the Massachusetts state police jurisdiction of the Massport property on the waterfront, which we have patrolled effectively for several decades,’’ said agency spokesman David Procopio. “As the waterfront has changed, the state police presence has changed with it, appropriately.”

There have been incidents of clashes between cops from both agencies. Last week, a woman was punched by her boyfriend at a Seaport bar, but the BPD could not arrest her boyfriend and had to wait until he left the area for Dorchester, according to a BPD report.

“That law was passed before the Seaport existed as a neighborhood,’’ said Boston City Council President Steve Murphy, who plans to hold a hearing. “Now we have a city within a city, and the result is chaos.”

Added Menino: “The area has changed dramatically. Public safety needs to be top priority.’’

michele-mcphee-wrko - Turf war erupts in Seaport

Michele McPhee - Boston Herald

By Michele McPhee  |   Wednesday, June 22, 2011  |  http://www.bostonherald.com

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/columnists/view.bg?articleid=1347157

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