Boston police Superintendent William Evans, a popular commander who ran the Boston Marathon and then responded to the bombings, will serve as acting commissioner of the department until a new mayor picks a permanent replacement.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino made the appointment Friday afternoon and said Evans would be commissioner effective immediately, replacing Edward F. Davis, who stepped down Friday.
“The Boston Police Department will be in great hands under the leadership of Bill Evans,” Menino said in a statement. “He knows how to manage his team of talented officers, has the respect of the rank and file and has proven his ability to [defuse] even the most difficult of public safety situations.”
Evans could not be reached for comment Friday, but in a statement he said he was “honored and humbled that Mayor Menino has entrusted me to lead the Boston Police Department.”
“I strongly believe in partnerships and am committed to community policing,” Evans said. “The department has made great strides in reducing crime and forging relationships with the community. I remain committed to that agenda and will work hard to maintain the community’s trust.”
Evans, 55, a quiet, unassuming officer who has been captain of two districts, was one of the first commanders to reach the Boston Marathon scene after two bombs killed three people and injured more than 260.
An avid marathoner, Evans had just finished running the race and was heading home to change when the bombs went off.
In the aftermath of the bombing, Davis received national attention for the way he reassured the public with his calm response. But on the street, it was Evans who calmed the officers, said department officials, counseling them to remember their training and not act rashly as they searched for the bombing suspects.
Menino also praised Evans for his role in the 70-day occupation of Dewey Square by Occupy Boston in 2011.
Rail-thin and affable, Evans won over many of the protestors, giving out his cellphone number and eventually getting theirs.
“Our motto is to kill them with kindness,” he said at the time. “You can talk your way out of anything. We don’t need sticks out. We don’t need helmets on.”
The department’s hands-off strategy was cited as a factor in the relatively peaceful way police later dispersed Occupy protestors.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley also praised Evans’s outreach to demonstrators in the Occupy encampment, saying it helped lay the groundwork for the relatively smooth clearing of Dewey Square.
“He earned the respect of even the people who were camped out there,” Conley said. “He built a lot of bridges to those folks.”
The district attorney said that as interim commissioner, Evans will have to work to continue the trend of declining crime that the city experienced during Davis’s tenure.
“Bill has been a part of that leadership team, so I expect that it’s going to be the same steady, good management over the next few months” until a permanent successor is named, Conley said.
Evans is the brother of former commissioner Paul Evans, who led the department from 1994 to 2003. William Evans joined the department as a patrol officer in 1982 and rose through the ranks before becoming captain of two districts, first in Brighton and Allston, then in busy District 4, which covers the South End and Fenway. He was promoted in 2009 to superintendent in charge of the Bureau of Field Services, a position responsible for overseeing special events and the patrol division.
“It’s a great choice,” said Sergeant Mark Parolin, vice president of the Boston Police Superior Officers Federation who worked with Evans in District 4. “He earned his way to his rank, and he’s got the support of police officers.”
Emmett Folgert, executive director of the Dorchester Youth Collaborative in Fields Corner, lauded Evans for his commitment to community policing, a strategy that prioritizes crime prevention.
“He’s a true believer in community policing,” Folgert said. “He was into that early, and he’s been consistent and we feel respected by him.”
Councilor Michael P. Ross, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, also spoke highly of Evans.
“He’s very well respected by both the rank-and-file members of the Police Department as well as by the public,” Ross said.
He said he has worked with Evans on a number of issues in his Back Bay district, including logistics around Fenway Park, area businesses, and housing.
“This is a wise choice for the interim position,” Ross said.