scorecardresearch Skip to main content

City, state police spar over jurisdiction in Seaport

In a 2003 fatal pedestrian crash in Seaport Boulevard, multiple police agencies responded. A turf war between city and State Police continues to complicate policing issues in the fast-growing neighborhood.George Rizer/Globe Photo/File

It’s a policing turf battle that dates back to the early days of the Seaport District’s growth spurt, which has transformed the South Boston waterfront with new restaurants, office buildings, and residents.

But despite the rapid revamping of the neighborhood that was once made up of loading docks and warehouses, the wrangling between the Boston Police Department and Massachusetts State Police over who should patrol the revitalized district remains at a stalemate.

Boston police want to extend their jurisdiction to property owned by the Massachusetts Port Authority along the waterfront and share policing duties there with their state counterparts. State Police say they are legally responsible for patrolling the area and that the current arrangement serves the neighborhood well.


“We’ve been fighting, trying to get that straightened away for the past five years but it hasn’t happened,” Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans said Friday. “It doesn’t seem to ever get there.”

The fight has already gone through several rounds dating back to at least 2009. One of the most heated exchanges was disclosed Friday in The Boston Courant, which published a letter sent to Evans last year by Colonel Timothy P. Alben, superintendent of the State Police.

In the letter, Alben complained that Boston police officers were answering 911 calls on Massport property in the Seaport. State Police patrol all Massport-owned properties, he wrote.

In some cases, Alben wrote, troopers were never notified of the 911 calls. He included a list of 11 incidents on Massport property in which Alben said Boston police failed to alert State Police.

“This is an officer safety issue of the highest order and raises serious concerns that must be addressed,” Alben wrote in the letter dated June 19, 2014.

“The failure to notify the [State Police] of 911 calls to Massport properties, coupled with the unannounced and unanticipated dispatch of [Boston police] officers to those calls, creates a potentially dangerous and catastrophic situation for the public and our respective department members,” he wrote.


Boston police put the letter on file and no action was taken, said Lieutenant Detective Michael McCarthy, a Boston Police Department spokesman.

But State Police spokesman David Procopio said Friday, “There have been no recent issues with the handling of 911 calls.”

“Today, the residents, visitors, and merchants of the Seaport enjoy one of the safest and best-patrolled areas in Boston,” Procopio said in a statement.

Evans says that Boston officers should have the authority to provide police services alongside Boston firefighters and emergency medical responders who are permitted in the growing neighborhood. Boston residents pay city taxes and should get city police services, he said.

“I don’t think the purpose of a state police agency is to be answering house calls,” Evans said. “We’re a true community policing agency. I think we’re better equipped to handle issues around liquor establishments, sexual assault, and domestic violence.”

Most 911 calls made from the Seaport go directly to the State Police, but some are picked up by Boston police dispatchers and transferred to the state, Evans said. In some cases, he said, Boston officers also go to calls.

“If it’s a dire emergency, we’re still going,” he said.

A Massport spokesman declined to comment on the dispute between the agencies.

Since 2009, lawmakers have filed at least six bills related to local police jurisdiction on Massport property, according to an aide to state Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, who filed legislation on the subject last year.


The latest bill offered by state Representative Nick Collins, a South Boston Democrat; Mayor Martin J. Walsh; and others seeks to have municipal police departments share patrol duties with State Police on Massport properties. Massport’s airports and ports would be excluded under the plan.

“This legislative session, I supported legislation to correct the outdated statute regarding jurisdiction in the Seaport, so that every resident and business in the city of Boston can access the same police services that they are entitled to,” Walsh said in a statement.

Collins has also filed legislation that would establish a commission to examine police jurisdiction on Massport property in the Seaport. No hearings have been scheduled on the proposals, but both bills have been referred to committees, said David Biele, Collins’s legislative director.

Procopio, the State Police spokesman, declined to comment on the bills.

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.