By the time 140 Boston police recruits Mayor Thomas Menino promised to hire over the coming year get their badges, at least 80 to 90 of their more seasoned brethren will have left the job, says Boston Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis. What looks like 140 new sets of boots on the ground actually becomes about 50. That's not counting the 12 to 14 people who wash out of every police academy class. Says Tom Nee, Boston Police Patrolmen's Association president: “Perception is not reality. At the end of the day, factoring in all the retirements, officers out injured, promotions and what have you, an additional 140 officers does not add up to a net gain. In fact, with our staffing the way it is now, we barely break even with 140.”
It is both sad and amazing, Gelzinis says, how the whims of violence can stretch the rules of economics. Was it mere coincidence that Menino's pledge to hire 140 police officers dovetailed with news of two more quick and merciless homicides? Or was it more like cause and effect? A feverish homicide rate can suddenly open up the pocketbook. “At the moment, I'd say the (police) department is about 18 to 20 percent understaffed,” Nee said. Nee says the Boston department now employs 1,350 uniformed officers.