A Boston detective who failed to follow up on a September case involving a person now of interest to police in last week’s murder of a South Boston woman has been demoted and “will no longer be doing investigations in the city of Boston,” the police commissioner told hundreds of concerned residents Monday night.
“He has been demoted into a patrol position,” Commissioner Edward F. Davis said.
Although Davis did not name the detective, Boston police revealed Monday that Jerome Hall-Brewster is losing his detective rating Tuesday because of a failure to properly investigate a September case. The suspect in that case was Edwin Alemany, 28, who is being held on charges related to two other attacks of women in the South Boston neighborhood and who is being called a person of interest in the slaying of Amy Lord last week.
Lord, 24, was abducted as she left her Dorchester Street residence, driven to several ATMs to withdraw cash, and then found stabbed to death in a Hyde Park reservation. The purpose of Monday’s community meeting was for officials to calm the community’s fears about an attacker on their streets.
Davis told the residents packed into the Tynan Elementary School in South Boston: “I am satisfied that we are in the right place and that we have the right person.”
Without calling Alemany a suspect in Lord’s killing, authorities mentioned him repeatedly Monday night when they addressed residents. He is in custody, undergoing a psychological evaluation.
“Edwin Alemany no longer poses any threat to the people of South Boston,” said Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.
He said that while no one has been formally charged in Lord’s killing, “detectives have solved” the two other attacks that Alemany stands accused of. And investigators have been making “enormous progress” in the Lord case, Conley said.
The police commissioner said officials are still processing evidence. Davis added that he was disappointed he could not announce any charges Monday night.
Many of the people who attended the meeting expressed concerns about the level of police presence in their neighborhood, including Steve Burns, 38, a lifelong resident of South Boston.
“I just think that maybe we’re not a high priority and it leaves the neighborhood vulnerable,” Burns said. Police have pledged to step up patrols in the area in the aftermath of Lord’s killing on July 23.
Burns added that young people moving to the neighborhood from small towns and suburbs may not be aware of the dangers of city life.
Jenette Simisky and Heather Melander, both 26-year-old Shrewsbury natives who have lived in South Boston for only a few months, said that before Lord’s death, they were comfortable walking home alone from bars or friends’ apartments, even late at night.
That has changed.
“I smile at complete strangers, usually, when I walk down the street,” Simisky said. “Now I feel like I’m going to keep my head down, not look at anyone.”
An internal affairs record provided to the Globe by police that detailed Hall-Brewster’s demotion did not indicate whether the move was permanent, but Boston police spokeswoman Cheryl Fiandaca said in an e-mail that he is “no longer a detective.”
Hall-Brewster’s record also shows that he was charged internally in a complaint in November 2011 stemming from an incident and that the allegations were sustained. Fiandaca would not provide details, since the department had yet to decide on his punishment.
In addition, the department found in 2001 that he failed to properly report the nonlethal use of force during an incident, and he served 16 hours of work without pay. The document did not provide further details.
There was no answer Monday night at the Stoughton home of Hall-Brewster, who Fiandaca said joined the Police Department in 1995 and made detective in 2007. His lawyer did not return calls seeking comment.
Davis said Friday that the detective in the September case did not believe he had probable cause to arrest Alemany, even though a woman who was attacked grabbed the perpetrator’s wallet, which contained Alemany’s identification card.
Davis, who did not identify the detective by name at the time, said he was “very disappointed” by the detective’s actions and believed he had grounds for an arrest.
Gerry Sanfilippo, president of the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society, declined to comment on the internal review Monday before the department confirmed the disciplinary action against Hall-Brewster. Sanfilippo could not be reached after the announcement.
Fiandaca said the internal affairs review of Hall-Brewster and his supervisors is ongoing.
A law enforcement official with knowledge of the process said that supervisors, typically sergeant detectives and lieutenant detectives, must review their detectives’ open cases every 10 days. Detectives in charge of cases cannot simply stop pursuing them on their own. Their supervisors have to agree there is no probable cause for an arrest, the official said.
A neighbor in Stoughton, John Farietta, 47, spoke highly of Hall-Brewster on Monday.
“He’s a great person, really nice man with a nice family, no problems,” Farietta said, adding that he did not believe Hall-Brewster deserved a harsh punishment in the current review.
“If there were a pattern of neglect perhaps, but it was just one bad call in a career,” he said.