The Transit Police has added three supervisors to its uppermost ranks, a move the chief said will enable better management of a department with growing responsibilities. It also nearly doubles the number collecting six-figure base salaries at the same time riders of the financially strapped MBTA are facing a fare increase.
Chief Paul MacMillan, who was previously supported by three deputy chiefs, created two more deputy chief jobs and filled a No. 2 position that had been vacant for several years, the $115,298 per year post of superintendent-in-chief.
MacMillan said the moves, which took effect June 12, reflect growing demands on the department and additional duties he has asked of his deputy chiefs in 4½ years at the helm of the department.
The changes came as part of nearly $200,000 worth of promotions for 11 longtime employees. MacMillan said that sum would be absorbed within the department’s budget for the 2013 fiscal year, which started Sunday, partly through unfilled vacancies down the ranks.
“I saw a need as the agency has expanded its commitment to the community and its commitment to homeland security and emergency preparedness issues,” MacMillan said.
Maria Haberfeld, a professor of police science at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the Transit Police structure appears top-heavy for a department of its size.
“For a department of 270 [positions] to have five deputy chiefs is very rare,” Haberfeld, chairwoman of John Jay’s department of law, police science, and criminal justice administration, said via e-mail. “It seems to me that given the salary range they could do fine with two deputy chiefs, and the salary of the three additional chiefs could be used to hire six additional patrol officers — from the operational standpoint it would make much more sense.”
The department, the state’s fifth-largest police force, is budgeted for 259 officers and 11 civilians but because of turnover and unfilled vacancies has a headcount of 253: the seven now at the top, plus 17 lieutenants, and about 30 sergeants and 200 officers on patrol, as well as four civilians, MacMillan said.
According to the T, base pay is $104,817 for a deputy chief, $89,025 for a lieutenant, $75,121 for a sergeant, and $58,042 for a patrol officer, meaning promotions could be worth as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime of higher pension payments.
Jonathan R. Davis, the T’s acting general manager, said he fully supports the changes. “We want a very professionally run department,” he said.
Multiple watchdog groups that study the T said they did not know enough about the workings of the Transit Police — considered a small, stable part of the vast MBTA budget — to comment.
The $1.8 billion MBTA budget for the fiscal year that started this week grew 7 percent over fiscal 2012 and is balanced partly by fare increases and service cuts. Within that budget, the $22.8 million police line represents just a 2 percent increase over last year.
There has been some debate among policymakers about whether to merge the Transit Police with the State Police — a move that might not save money overall but would shift the cost to the state budget, lessening financial pressure on the T and farepayers.
From its founding in 1968 with 35 officers based in a one-room office at Dudley Station, the department’s size and jurisdiction have grown, from 78 cities and towns to the 175 now reached by the commuter rail.
In addition to protecting riders and employees, investigating crimes, and running a training academy for MBTA and municipal cadets, the department has expanded its scope in the past decade. It does more community policing, a proactive strategy that includes working with civic groups and targeting minor violations such as smoking and fare evasion as a way to deter bigger crimes, MacMillan said.
And it has worked closely with the federal government and state and municipal agencies to train for emergencies, natural disasters, and possible terrorist attacks, MacMillan said.
Under the reorganization, Joseph F. O’Connor, deputy chief for patrol, was promoted to superintendent-in-chief, with Lieutenant Robert Lenehan filling O’Connor’s old post.
The two new deputy positions oversee homeland security and emergency preparedness (filled by Lewis Best, who was previously deputy chief for investigations), and night patrol operations and community policing (filled by Kenneth Green, promoted from sergeant).
Sergeant John J. Mahoney III was promoted to fill Best’s old position. Deputy Chief Donald O’Connor remained in charge of administrative services.
Lenahan, a 27-year-veteran, said the department was less than half its current size when he was sworn in by transit chief William J. Bratton, who went on to command the Boston, New York, and Los Angeles police departments.
“Bill Bratton ran the place using three deputy chiefs, and it always amazed me how little at that end of the world we’ve actually evolved” until now, Lenahan said. “This will allow upper command staff to more hone in on specific areas.”
Joseph O’Connor, the superintendent-in-chief, said the Transit Police structure cannot be easily compared to a municipal department because of the extensive terrain it covers and the array of other departments it coordinates with.
In the first weeks since the reorganization, “we’re already seeing that we’re running in a much more efficient manner,” he said.
Green gives the department a command presence at night, especially helpful when the T and municipal forces respond together to major incidents. He is thought to be the fourth person of color in Transit Police history to become deputy chief.
“I think it’s important for people not just within the MBTA community but in the communities of Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, to see someone like myself out there, somebody that looks like them, somebody that they’ve seen for years,” he said.
Seven others were also promoted to lieutenant or sergeant, filling vacancies, MacMillan said.
The MBTA Police Association, the patrolman’s union, declined to comment on the reorganization through a spokesman.
MacMillan acknowledged that not everyone was pleased but said he had received no formal objections from the rank-and-file.
“We understand that change can be difficult at times, and we recognize that people don’t always accept that change readily, but the fact of the matter is we needed to make these changes to better address our community partnerships and better delivers police services,” he said.