Because of sick, injured, and otherwise unavailable officers, the Boston Police Department may not have enough officers to sustain its nationally acclaimed community-policing program, says a Boston Municipal Research Bureau report quoted by the Boston Globe. The watchdog group said 10 percent of the force on average was injured, sick, or on other leave or light duty over the past year, meaning that late last month, the force was closer to 1,800 officers than the official count of about 2,000 sworn officers. “With the numbers we have and the cost of adding to that and the fiscal climate we’re in with limited revenue growth, does Boston really have the number of police officers needed to fully implement community policing?” asked Sam Tyler, the nonpartisan group’s president.
Community policing places an emphasis on officers working in close partnership with residents to fight crime. Specialists say it works best when patrol officers on the beat know the residents they are sworn to protect. Superintendent Robert Dunford said department officials have reduced absenteeism by closely monitoring employees’ schedules and working with police physicians to bring injured officers back to work more quickly. By some measures, the department is less successful than it could be at engaging with the community, he acknowledged.