Boston Police Commissioner William Evans joined Boston Public Radio cohosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan for his monthly segment, "Ask the Commissioner." Evans talked about the recovery of Officer John Moynihan after being shot in Roxbury, the use of body cameras for Boston police officers, and many more things.
Responses are edited where indicated [...], and questions are paraphrased.
How is Officer Moynihan doing now after being shot?
He's doing very well. He's remarkably well for what happened to him. He's a strong kid to get hit with a .357 and still be around to talk about it. [...] He's at his home, up, walking around.
Will he come back to the force soon?
He'd love to come back. He's sort of biting at the bit to come back. He loves the camaraderie. He saw how much his youth violence task force rallied around him. [...] It's not going to be an easy thing to get back both physically and psychologically. [...] I'm hoping he comes back, but I think for John's sake we're going to take it real slow.
How did the decision come about to release the video of Moynihan's shooting?
Right afterwards, right at the scene, that started that whole conversation. You know, Michael Curry from the NAACP was sending me a text. [...] There was constant dialog that night. I remember going in and talking to [Suffolk County DA] Dan Conley.
You showed the video of the incident to some community ministers, right?
I made the call — let's bring them all together, let's walk them through this so we don't have the flare-ups we've seen in New York, [...] and all across the country.
You and DA Conley decided to release the video to the public.
I made the ask, he thought it was a good idea, and together we made that call.
You spoke kind words to the family of Angelo West, the person who shot Officer Moynihan and was later killed by police. Why did you do that?
I wanted a chance to meet with the mother and his wife. [...] That morning before we were releasing the video we had a ten o'clock meeting set up, and they didn't show. [...] My heart still goes out to them because that's their child, that's their husband. [...] There's no winners here.
In the wake of the shooting death of Walter Scott by a South Carolina police officer there's been yet another call for officers to wear body cameras. Have you come around yet?
The tide is coming, and I can feel the tide that — as much as I'm not a great supporter — I think it's inevitable that we're gonna go there. The only issue that I see, honestly, I think it's going to hurt us in a way. I think people aren't going to approach us if we have the body cameras. [...] It's one thing if they talk to us and nobody ever sees it. But if they think they're going to be taped [they'll be hesitant].
The costs are unbelievable, outfitting all the officers. [...] They estimate the storage [for] just the city police department is $2 million a year. [...] It's going to be a tremendous amount of resources that we could put elsewhere. [...] The bottom line is, we have to get into the community, build the respect, build confidence so we don't need cameras.
How hard has the shooting death of Walter Scott by Officer Michael Slager made your job?
That South Carolina video made me sick to tell the truth. When I see videos like that it makes us all look bad. [...] At the same time, I think here in Boston we're as transparent as any police department is going to be. I think we've got a great internal affairs and anti-corruption unit that investigates any type of wrong-doing. [...] We try hard to build the respect of the community. I think we do a good job.
Presumably, body cameras would make your officers look better if people saw them doing their jobs correctly.
If you're going to make the argument for body cameras I think you gotta look at other professions, too. Go into the operating rooms.
It seems like police departments across the country are now confronting the aftermath from police-involved shootings like in South Carolina.
What happens there, what happens in Ferguson to me isn't what we're about in this city. It's all about respect, it's all about trust. And if we ever get a bad apple like [Slager] we're going to weed them out. [...]
We're under siege here, the police across the country. It's really disheartening to me becaue I know how hard our men and women work. Last night we got three guns off the street.
What's new for the Marathon preparations this year?
We're going pretty much with the good plan that we had last year. We're encouraging everyone to not bring backpacks or large bags. [...] We're going to be inspecting bags, so the easiest thing is not to bring them. [...] We're encouraging people not to [gather on] Boylston Street. When it gets too crowded we're going to turn away people.
But no heavy, military-like police presence, right?
We're going to be out there, and most of our officers are going to be embedded in the crowd. [...] I don't want CNN approaching, seeing us in tactical gear. [...] This is a fun day, it's a special day, it's Patriots Day.
There's a no-drone policy at this year's Marathon, too. Who's flying drones?
I'm not sure. We really haven't had an issue here. It's a precautionary thing.
MEMA recently released its After Action Report on police response to the Boston Marathon bombing manhunt. What did you make of that?
Myself and two lieutenants were actually the first people there [in Watertown], and I thought we had good control of that scene. [...] We knew we had the guy in the boat, but officers just kept coming when the call when out we had the guy. It is an issue. And when one shot rang out, I don't know where it came from, but it just caused a domino effect.
Once Tsarnaev was pinned down in the boat you guys had to be extra cautious.
Obviously I didn't want him to come out dead. [...] I knew crossfire was very much an issue, because we had the boat surrounded, and you know crossfire is going to get an officer shot. [...] My officers, not one of them fired out in Watertown, and I'm proud of the discipline our officers had. [...] What I could control I did.
Do you support the death penalty for Tsarnaev?
I'm a big Catholic, I'm going to church all the time. My leader has come out against it. [...] I don't believe he should, but the law enforcement part of me watched this video throughout that week. I watched the video of this individual sitting behind the Richards family for a good five minutes. [...] He deliberately, maliciously blew up that family, so the law enforcement part of me says yes. I have mixed emotions. Hopefully the jury will do the right thing.
A Boston Globe article today talked about how Boston's police and fire departments are the least racially-diverse of any city departments. Are you guys working on this?
My work plan is to make the [force] reflect the diversity of the city. I think I've done that. [...] My promotions and my transfers have been very transparent in terms of diversity. My biggest challenge [...] is civil service [employing] veterans. [...] It's been mostly white males coming on at our police and fire. I've pushed the Mayor to bring back the cadet program. [...] I want to truly get a good reflection of what's in the city, and hopefully we can get at least half, if not more, [minority officers].
>>To hear the entire "Ask the Commissioner" segment, click the audio above.