Less than a week after being named the city’s new police commissioner, William Evans promoted six members of minority groups to the post of deputy superintendent, a widespread shake-up that he said will result in the most diverse command staff in department history.
“We are most pleased that the makeup of this command staff underscores our commitment to a Police Department that represents and reflects the diversity of the neighborhoods that it serves,” Evans said in a statement.
He declined to comment directly on the changes, which become effective Wednesday.
Evans promoted four black men, two lieutenants and two sergeant detectives; one Hispanic woman, currently a sergeant detective; and an Asian man, now a lieutenant.
Evans made department history last week when he promoted William Gross to superintendent in chief, the first time an African-American has held that job.
‘This builds trust. It builds understanding between people.’
The promotions mean that 12 out of the 22 top commanders in the department, or 54 percent, are people of color or women. Under Commissioner Edward F. Davis, 42 percent of the commanders were minorities and women.
“That’s pretty amazing,” said Jorge Martinez, executive director of Project RIGHT, a Roxbury community group working to prevent violence. “It’s impressive that the new commissioner has already taken a step toward diversifying the command staff so that folks down on the ground can feel a little more comfortable.”
For people in minority neighborhoods, where crime is more prevalent and distrust of police is pervasive, that kind of diversity matters, Martinez said.
“Most people need to identify with someone or something,” he said. “This builds trust. It builds understanding between people.”
Deputy superintendents and superintendents, appointed positions that come with more prestige and higher pay, are directly below the commissioner in the department hierarchy.
Within the department, many officers of color remain disappointed, said Larry Ellison, president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers.
“The day-to-day operations of the department are still being run by white males,” he said. “I would have liked to see more people of color in charge of the coveted bureaus like patrols and detectives.”
Those jobs are going to Bernard P. O’Rourke, a deputy superintendent who will be promoted to superintendent in charge of the Bureau of Field Services, and Robert Merner, a lieutenant detective who will be promoted to superintendent in charge of the Bureau of Investigative Services.
Two black deputy superintendents, Randall J. Halstead and Lisa R. Holmes, were promoted to superintendent. Halstead will serve as night commander. Holmes will stay on at the Bureau of Professional Standards, which includes the Internal Affairs Division.
Evans demoted two Hispanic commanders: Deputy Superintendent Juan Torres will go back to being a sergeant, and Deputy Superintendent Alfredo Andres will go back to captain. Andres will run District E-13, which covers Jamaica Plain, a largely Hispanic neighborhood that is quickly gentrifying.
Evans also demoted an Asian commander, Superintendent Kenneth Fong. He will go back to being a captain, running District A-1, one of the city’s busiest, covering downtown and Charlestown.
One official familiar with the changes said Fong and Andres were demoted to captain in response to criticism that there were no people of color running any of the city’s 11 districts, an issue that became a flashpoint during the mayoral race.
Evans did not explain the reasons behind the demotions. “I have the utmost confidence in the dedication, devotion, and capabilities of each of these command staff members to work with myself and Mayor [Martin J.] Walsh in our ongoing efforts to make Boston the safest city it can be,” he said.
Ellison said he was concerned no one in the administration had called anyone at his organization about the new appointments or sought his counsel, something he said Evans had indicated he would do. “That’s a little disheartening,” Ellison said. “I’m very, very disappointed that the conversation didn’t take place.”
In the past, Ellison said, outgoing Superintendent in Chief Daniel Linskey would call him about changes before they were announced.
Linskey was demoted to lieutenant detective in the reshuffling and will be assigned to the police academy, though it was not clear what his new duties will be.
Another longtime commander — Superintendent Paul Joyce, who once oversaw the city’s detectives — was demoted to sergeant detective. He will be transferred from the Bureau of Professional Development to Gross’s office.
In a statement, Walsh praised Evans’s selections: “We’ve stressed over and over again the importance of the Boston Police Department reflecting the diversity of our city, and these appointments are clearly a key step forward.”