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Lawmakers reject Seaport joint policing, but idea may not be dead

The Massachusetts State Police substation at the Boston Fish Pier in the Seaport District.
The Massachusetts State Police substation at the Boston Fish Pier in the Seaport District.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/file

House leaders on Wednesday struck down another attempt by Boston to give its police shared jurisdiction with the State Police in the Seaport, extending — at least for now — the long-running standoff.

A state budget amendment pushed by Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Representative Nick Collins seeking to settle the years-long turf war was sliced from the House spending bill during the third day of debate in the chamber.

The head of the House budget committee indicated Wednesday that he’s comfortable leaving it to Governor Charlie Baker’s administration and the Boston police to reach an agreement.

State Police have long resisted past attempts by the city to push change in the Seaport, where many parcels are owned by the Massachusetts Port Authority. Under state statute, the State Police hold “sole police authority.”


Walsh made a high-profile push for the proposal, including speaking directly with House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. Baker has also opened the door to changes in the way the Seaport is patrolled, further emboldening hopes in City Hall.

Despite the setback, Collins may soon have the chance to push the issue again.

The South Boston Democrat is on the ballot Tuesday to fill the open state Senate seat vacated by former senator Linda Dorcena Forry. If he emerges, as expected, over two independent candidates in the heavily Democratic district, he could be sworn in before amendments are due for the Senate’s own spending proposal, which is set to be released next month.

Collins, in an interview Wednesday, said he’s prepared to push the issue again if elected.

“I’m disappointed that we didn’t have it coming in this budget, but we’re going to take another crack at it, if all goes well on Tuesday, in the Senate version,” he said. “I think it’s an important issue.”

Senate President Harriette L. Chandler’s office said Wednesday that she intends to swear in the winner of the First Suffolk Senate race as soon as possible.


Althea Garrison and Donald Osgood are also on the ballot with Collins, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Chandler has yet to release an official schedule for budget debate, though an initial version is typically released in early- to mid-May, with amendments due in the days after.

The potential for the Seaport issue to reemerge could add to a long-simmering debate. The State Police for two decades have held legal jurisdiction over the rapidly growing neighborhood, but the tug of war resurfaced in recent weeks amid revelations of hidden payroll records and hefty overtime payouts in Troop F, the State Police unit assigned to patrol the waterfront district and Logan International Airport.

State officials have since disclosed millions of dollars in additional payouts, most of which appear tied to a generous perk that allows Troop F members to get a $40 per diem for driving their own cars to work.

Baker, amid a series of proposed changes in the department, ordered Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin to consider “a plan for the Boston Police Department and State Police to work together” in the Seaport as part of a 30-day review of Troop F.

Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, who chairs the House Ways & Means Committee, said the House is content to leave it to them to settle.

“The House looks forward to discussions between the City of Boston and the Baker administration about this issue,” he said.


On Wednesday, Walsh’s office released a brief statement indicating he doesn’t intend to drop the debate, despite falling short in the House.

“This is an important issue that needs to be addressed immediately,” said Walsh, a former state representative.

Even if Collins is able to file another amendment seeking the change, its prospects in the upper chamber are unclear. Dorcena Forry had unsuccessfully pushed a bill before her departure that would have “authorized and directed” both the State Police and Boston police “to enter into an agreement outlining protocols for the concurrent public safety jurisdiction” of the neighborhood.

And if Collins’s amendment were to pass the chamber, it would then have to survive closed-door negotiations between House and Senate leaders tasked with resolving differences between their respective budget plans before sending a final version to Baker’s desk.

House leaders have otherwise shown an appetite to push for change in the beleaguered State Police. They included a provision in their initial budget proposal to create a “special audit unit” within the agency that would operate independently of the department and under the direction of the inspector general’s office.

House leaders also proposed creating two outside reports to study the department’s promotion policies and its “overall management structure.”

The amendment filed by Collins was one of 1,400 introduced by lawmakers in the House, where leaders have spent most of their time since Monday behind closed doors.

Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout