New head of Boston police intelligence unit appointed

Colm Lydon.
Colm Lydon.bill brett for the Boston Globe/Boston Globe

The son of Irish immigrants Tuesday was given a seemingly impossible task by Boston police Commissioner William B. Evans, his mentor and friend: Keep track of international terrorism, identify threats aimed at Boston, help devise a response — and keep an eye on neighborhood issues so Boston police can craft a timely response.

Colm Lydon was promoted to the rank of superintendent in charge of the Bureau of Intelligence and Analysis. The bureau is home to the Boston Regional Information Center, a post-9/11 innovation where rank and file officers share their knowledge with federal, state, and local police agencies, generating more effective, faster reaction to public safety issues.


“Public safety has many different rungs on the ladder,’’ Lydon said after his promotion. “There is a terrorism threat across the world today that we have to keep an eye on and respond to — there is also the issues that take place in the neighborhoods every day that affect each and every one of us.”

Lydon, 57, said he believes he can put the right amount of attention in the right spots as he takes over the bureau that is the key connection to the national and international federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Lydon succeeds Paul Fitzgerald, who recently retired.

“Public safety is the priority. Public safety is anything that keeps the city of Boston and everyone coming into Boston safe. That’s always our primary concern. And it’s our primary responsibility — it’s all about public safety.”

Evans and Lydon have something of a mutual admiration society going between them, a bond forged some 35 years ago when the younger Lydon met Evans in department headquarters as both were starting their careers.

Evans was the first to achieve a civil service promotion, but they often ended up working in the same unit or the same district in the decades to follow: Evans the sergeant had Lydon in the anticrime unit; Evans the lieutenant had Lydon the sergeant working for him — and so now the commissioner has Lydon as a superintendent.


And during Evans’s tour as the commander of the department’s uniformed branch, both men were at the point of contact in 2011 when Occupy Boston protesters took over Dewey Square downtown, a social protest that Evans is widely credited for keeping peaceful through direct contact with protesters.

“I always remember the toughest night of all when they took over the whole street. It was me and Colm down there dealing with 5,000 people,’’ Evans said. “The way he handled that was great.”

During a well-attended promotion ceremony at headquarters, Evans said he considered Lydon the person whose personality and outlook made him one of the most effective communicators with people from all ethnic and economic communities.

“No one has a better way of dealing with people than Colm,’’ Evans said.

Lydon is a graduate of UMass Boston and has a master’s in criminal justice from Boston University and has attended the National Judicial College, the Police Executive Research Forum, and Harvard University’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative.

Lydon said he joined the department with a single goal, one that remains a personal and professional goal even after more than 30 years on the job: “I took this job to be a public servant and to provide public safety. It’s that simple. . . . I am a child of immigrants. . . . This country has been great for us growing up and this city has been incredible to welcome our family.”


John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.