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After officer shootings, constables to be fingerprinted

Police worked at the East Boston shooting scene Oct. 13, one day after the officers were shot.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The Boston Police Department has begun notifying constables that they must be fingerprinted so authorities can run out-of-state background checks on them — a move that follows the shooting of two Boston officers, allegedly by a constable who ran afoul of the law outside of Massachusetts.

Notice of the new fingerprinting requirement was sent Thursday to the city’s 277 constables, Lieutenant Detective Michael McCarthy said Friday. Constables have until Feb. 15 to comply or the city may suspend their authority to work in Boston, he said.

Kirk Figueroa, killed during the Oct. 12 confrontation, was a constable.

“We feel the need to expand the [criminal record] check and look outside Massachusetts,” McCarthy said. The fingerprinting requirement also applies to people seeking a constable license for the first time.


The vetting of constables has come under scrutiny since 33-year-old Kirk Figueroa allegedly opened fire on two Boston officers Oct. 12 as they investigated a report of a domestic disturbance in East Boston.

Figueroa was killed during the encounter, which wounded Officers Richard Cintolo and Matthew Morris.

Constables serve legal documents in civil matters like lawsuits, divorces, and evictions, and in some instances they can take people into custody and secure property. The Boston City Council approved Figueroa’s constable application April 13 without debate.

Constables’ powers are also being examined by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, which wants to work with lawmakers to curb some of their authority, said Felix Browne, a spokesman.

In particular, Public Safety Secretary Daniel Bennett believes constables should be prohibited from making arrests and presenting themselves as police officers, he said.

“Under current laws, constables have many of the same powers as police officers but none of the training,” Browne said. “In the interest of public safety, state statutes should be revised to remove from constables the powers that they should not have.”

Previously, Boston police conducted only a Massachusetts criminal records check and asked applicants to disclose whether they had been charged with violating criminal laws, according to McCarthy and records.


Figueroa listed “N/A” in response to a question about whether he had been a defendant in a criminal case. But records in Georgia show Figueroa had been accused of unlawfully representing himself as a private detective while not holding a license and setting his vehicle on fire. He had no Massachusetts criminal record.

McCarthy said previously undisclosed criminal records uncovered by the out-of-state background checks will be investigated. Having a criminal record doesn’t necessarily prohibit constables from continuing their duties, he said.

“Depending on what it is, it may or may not disqualify them from continuing to hold their license,” McCarthy said.

Boston police rules prohibit people who have been convicted of felonies, weapons or ammunition offenses, and drug violations from being constables. People who have been the subject of a restraining order or convicted of a misdemeanor that carries a sentence of more than two years in jail are also precluded.

The leaders of two statewide groups for constables said they were not aware of any other municipality that requires fingerprinting.

“If that would help to do a more solid background check, we wouldn’t have any objections to that,” said Richard Ramponi, president of the Massachusetts Bay Constables Association.

Some constables who work in Boston welcomed fingerprinting. “Not a big deal,” said Daniel Long, a constable for 35 years. “Just another check. Nothing wrong with it.”


William Doniger, president of Boston Constable Associates, a professional group, said the requirement is “long overdue.”

“We are basically law enforcement and why shouldn’t we be held accountable,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with the fingerprinting. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

The process for becoming a constable varies by municipality; some are elected, while others are appointed. In Boston, candidates apply to the Police Department, which requires applicants to complete a training course. The City Council and mayor have the final say.

After the attack, councilors voted to examine the process for appointing constables. A hearing date has not been set.

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.