Boston City Council president claims police officer was ordered to work 24-hour shift

BOSTON — Boston City Council President Ed Flynn said Monday he’s requesting an emergency meeting with the Boston Police Commissioner after a city officer was ordered to work for 24 hours straight, a claim that Boston Police are denying.

Flynn and his colleague, City Councilor At-Large Erin Murphy, also called for the hiring of additional Boston Police officers to address what they call a significant public safety issue in Boston, and a problem within the department with mandatory overtime.

“Working 24 hours without time off for rest is not only unhealthy for the police officers and their families, it is also harmful to the residents and our neighborhoods,” Flynn said in a statement. “It is also illegal to work that many hours without needed rest. Mistakes are made when a police officer is sleep deprived.”

However, in a statement shortly before 7 p.m. Monday, a Boston Police spokeswoman said, “No officers were ordered to work 24 hours.”

“Friday evening, officers were offered overtime to support a district that was short-handed,” the statement said. “For a few officers who volunteered, this meant that in this instance, they were approved to work more than the allowable 18 hours in one day.”

“Officer wellness is fundamental for public safety, so we continue to prioritize taking steps to fill vacancies on the sworn and civilian side, and to boost our numbers in order to meet minimum staffing levels and to ensure that officers and their families can have the rest and health they deserve and need,” the statement said. “We currently have a recruit class going through the academy and are actively working to recruit officers, and we appreciate help in spreading the word about opportunities to join the Boston Police Department.”

Boston Police said they use mutual aid when city resources are limited.

“To support public safety, when districts are in need of additional resources they have the option to request personnel from other districts or citywide units when they are available, or to utilize mutual aid agreements in place with the State and other surrounding Departments,” the department’s statement said. “We are carefully reviewing any situations of individual officers working untenable hours and believe the cap on hours is an important protection for officer health and for public safety.”

Flynn said he spoke with Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox about this personnel issue last year “and I was assured it would not happen again. However, this recent incident is confirmation that we have a significant problem in the department with mandatory overtime.”

Murphy said in a statement Monday that the summer in particular presents challenges, from annual spikes in violence to the health risks to seniors and others from oppressive heat. Murphy also said that, recently, at least one Boston Police officer had been forced to work a 24-hour shift.

Additionally, emergency calls to 911 have been met with delayed responses in multiple neighborhoods due to staffing shortages, Murphy said.

“Particularly in neighborhoods that have been historically underserved, we need to be able to provide rapid, top-quality emergency responses,” Murphy said. “That’s very hard to do with thinned-out staffing or with cops, EMTs or 911 who are working the tail end of an overtime shift. I’m in community meetings every week across the city, and people want a more robust public safety and public health presence, not a depleted one.”

Murphy said the city must do a better job of hiring and retaining first responders, citing Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox’s public statement that the city was evaluating leaving the state’s civil service system. Pointing to Boston’s rising cost of living, Murphy affirmed her support for some residency rules, but said the worsening emergency response situation warranted a full evaluation of the civil service system.

Flynn said over the past six years, “I have consistently advocated for the hiring of at least 300 police officers every year for the next ten years due to forced overtime, overstretched resources, transfers out of the department, and retirements.”

“The current system of forced overtime is a failure and it can’t continue,” Flynn said. “I will file a hearing order on this troubling situation in the next City Council meeting, and request an immediate meeting with the Boston Police Commissioner to discuss my concerns.”

In a tweet on Monday, the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association echoed Flynn’s comments about the 24-hour shift worked by the Boston officer.

“One triple tour is one too many. NOBODY should be working 24-straight-hours. Waiving the 90-hour-rule is an abuse of power,” the police union said. “Our officers are constantly being ordered to work 16-hour-shifts throughout the entire summer. It’s unacceptable and dangerous.”

The police overtime issue comes as Boston and city officers are grappling with a spate of shootings, including gunfire that erupted in Mattapan on July 5 that left five people wounded.

Late Saturday night, police arrested a Boston man on assault to murder charges near the scene where five people were shot in Mattapan earlier.

Murphy had shared similar concerns last July, when several Boston Police officers were mandated to work round-the-clock shifts as a result of major events across the city, including the Open Streets festival in Jamaica Plain, a Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway, and a festival in the Seaport District.

Such demands, Murphy said at the time, both impaired officers’ mental and physical health, and created a public safety liability for residents. Murphy has also previously called for increasing class sizes at the Boston Police Academy.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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