Boston police, Massport at odds over seaport jurisdiction

Boston Police are at odds with Massport over jurisdiction. (PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO)
Boston Police are at odds with Massport over jurisdiction. Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

Seeking to increase safety in the South Boston Seaport area, Rep. Nick Collins and Boston Police Commissioner William Evans asked lawmakers Wednesday to make changes to police jurisdiction on Massport properties, with Collins calling the changes “long overdue.”

Collins asked the Transportation Committee for passage of legislation that would grant Boston and state police concurrent jurisdiction to land owned by the Massachusetts Port Authority in Boston, where he said city police are banned from responding.

“Failing to fix this important issue could have grave consequences,” said Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, who was joined by Boston Police Patrolman’s Association President Thomas Nee and a representative of Boston detectives.

Collins said landline emergency calls from the Seaport area go to Boston’s dispatch, but BPD are not allowed to respond to the calls.

While Boston officials decried the jurisdictional situation, Massport Director of Maritime Security and Chief of Massport Police Joe Lawless said the bill is unnecessary and would complicate a successful cooperation with Boston Police.

“Blurring the jurisdictional lines on Massport property would have a detrimental effect,” said Lawless. He said, “The policing system on Massport properties is not broken. It does not need fixing.”

Massport, state and Boston authorities have cooperated at events such as the Democratic National Convention, Lawless said, though he said there are sometimes deficiencies in BPD’s transfer of information from 911 calls, which he said poses risks.

Evans, who said he is conveying the wishes of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, said “there’s no logical reason why the Massport property should be treated differently than Department of Conservation and Recreation property and state roads in Boston.”

The bill calls for a memorandum of understanding between BPD and the State Police in consultation with Massport. The memorandum would cover procedures involving assignment of police officers, first responder calls and emergency 911 dispatch, emergencies occurring on Massport properties, criminal investigations of incidents and crimes, and arrests and processing of individuals taken into custody.

Collins said the bill would not apply to maritime or aviation properties.

Evans said the bill “does not take away any authority of the state police.”

The bill (S 1659/ H 3035) was filed by former Sen. Jack Hart and Collins, both South Boston Democrats.

Nee said the current law hinders the ability of police. “We could run across one road, be in the city of Boston, and not convey our authority as police officers,” Nee said.

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