Boston police create new bureau to expand community policing in the city

Nora Baston became the fourth woman to be promoted to superintendent, according to police officials.
Nora Baston became the fourth woman to be promoted to superintendent, according to police officials.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Boston Police Commissioner William G. Gross Monday unveiled a new Boston police bureau aimed at enhancing the city’s community policing strategy that will be led by a veteran of the department.

Nora Baston, who holds the civil service rank of lieutenant after serving 22 years on the force, was promoted to superintendent by Gross on Monday and will lead the new Bureau of Community Engagement, the ninth bureau in the department.

Baston, dressed in uniform, said her top priority will be mentoring young people and steering them to opportunities around the city. But she will also need to look to enhance trust in pockets of Boston rattled by persistent violence. Baston will also work to create partnerships and promote inclusion and diversity within the department, officials said.


“It’s a day I never thought would actually happen, so this . . . is one of the most amazing days of my career,’’ said Baston, a 46-year-old Roslindale resident who police officials say is the fourth woman in department history to be promoted to superintendent, one of the top leadership positions on the force.

Since his swearing in this summer, Gross has stressed he plans to expand community policing, and on Monday, he said Baston would bring uniformity to this vision.

“I know Superintendent Baston will do an excellent job in ensuring that we’re able to reach even more residents and help them feel connected to our movement here in Boston,’’ Gross said.

He said Baston is currently assigned in Charlestown but the department is seeking more office space for her work. She will have a deputy, Gross said, and a staff of “handpicked” individuals who have institutional knowledge of how the department and neighborhoods operate.

On Monday, Baston used most of her remarks to acknowledge the people who have worked closely with her through the years — the long-time activists sitting in the front row, the members of the gang unit in the back, and the Dorchester priest who once identified the at-risk children at a troubled housing development who needed attention.


Father Richard “Doc” Conway said he and Baston used to go on peace walks together and noted her passion for young people. She’s helped organize basketball games with teenagers and police and worked closely on a number of initiatives involving youth.

That’s who she is, said Conway, describing Baston as someone who always puts everyone else first. “She’s a people person, especially with kids,’’ Conway said.

Susan Young, a city health worker who helps families in crisis, also knows Baston well and said she always finds time to engage the community. She said they met years ago at the county jail when they were helping to give out information to inmates who were soon to be released and needed guidance on being reintegrated into society.

“[Nora] is one is those people who gets along with everyone,’’ Young said. “She doesn’t have an agenda. . . . I don’t think she does it as a police officer. She is doing it as a human being.”

Baston was pinned with a badge representing her new rank of superintendent by her adopted grandmother Ann Murphy as her father, Kent Murphy, looked on.
Baston was pinned with a badge representing her new rank of superintendent by her adopted grandmother Ann Murphy as her father, Kent Murphy, looked on.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Baston, previously a deputy superintendent and a UMass Lowell graduate, has been a member of the department’s command staff for 11 years and has worked as the commander of the community support division, zone commander in Area E, a liaison to the city’s homeless advocates, and has worked in both Area B2 (Roxbury) and Area B3 Mattapan, according to the department.


Mayor Martin J. Walsh, noting Boston’s reputation for strong police-community relations, said the goal is to continue to build positive relationships throughout the city.

Walsh said that this year, shootings are down about 25 percent compared to the same period last year. He said violent crime — including murder and nonfatal shootings — has declined by 17 percent between 2014 and 2017. The number of nonfatal shootings declined by 44 when compared to the same time last year, the administration said.

“We have seen great police work, great police leadership, and great police engagement,’’ Walsh said.

But the mayor said the shooting of a city police officer over the weekend shows that “the numbers don’t make us all safe.”

Part of that is trying new things, being innovative, and continuing to build trust with residents — and that is what the bureau will do, Walsh said.

“We have the best community policing in the country, but you can’t keep that if you don’t change that model. We need to change with the times,’’ the mayor added.

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.