Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole has authorized adding about 90 police officers this year, but the department would still be down about 150 officers, or 11 percent, from five years ago, after the new hiring, the Boston Globe reports. Despite the lower staffing levels, 911 response time citywide has improved slightly over the last three years. In part, O’Toole said, that was because thousands of nonemergency calls have been diverted from 911 dispatchers to the mayor’s office. O’Toole is beefing up patrols downtown, and a new policy will require officers to work overtime outside downtown nightclubs where there have been recent shootings and stabbings.
Even with the hiring O’Toole has announced, police union officials cited data showing Boston has fewer officers on the street per person than Washington, Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia. O’Toole acknowledged that the department has been hamstrung by city budget cuts and the loss of federal funding to hire additional officers. In 1996, O’Toole said, the city received $13 million in federal money and $9 million in 1997, but has received none since. Last year, the department increased the number of homicide investigators from 15 to 18, but the unit still resolved only about one-third of the year’s 64 homicides by making arrests, issuing warrants, or identifying suspects, a rate that was the lowest in at least a decade.