Superintendent Daniel Linskey, who commands the BPD's Bureau of Fields Services, is shown with Captain Richard Sexton, who was appointed to take command of Dorchester's Area C-11 last Friday. Photo by Bill Forry
One of the two main police districts that covers Dorchester has a new commander this week. Captain Richard Sexton, 42, took the reins at the District C-11 stationhouse on Monday. Sexton replaces Captain John Greland, who has been transferred to a supervisory position in the Boston Police Department's Bureau of Field Services.
The command change is the fourth at the Fields Corner stationhouse since 2002, when C-11's longtime chief, then-Captain Robert Dunford, left to take a job at police headquarters. Dunford is now Superintendent in Chief of the department.
Greland, who took over  after the abrupt transfer of Captain Frank Armstrong in 2006, has won praise from some in the community for his attentiveness to quality of life problems that bubble up at crime watch meetings. Although the district's murder rate is up substantially this year over last year's numbers, overall serious crime has dropped on Greland's watch - and his superiors say stats had nothing to do with the transfer.
Barry Mullen, who helped Greland organize monthly advisory committee meetings at the C-11 station, says he is sorry to see him go.
"It's just frustrating, because I feel like I have to start all over again," says Mullen, who helped to start crime watches in his St. Mark's neighborhood and elsewhere in Dorchester. Mullen says that the tenures of the captains in C-11 since Dunford have been too brief. "This may be the right move, but right now it hurts."
Sexton, who himself is a native of Mather Street in the St. Mark's Area, is a newly-minted captain and is clearly being groomed for higher command. He joined the department in 1991 and worked his first four years as a patrolman in C-11. He has worked as a detective in Area B-2 (Roxbury-Dorchester) and served two tours on specialized drug units in West Roxbury and East Boston. More recently, as a lieutenant, he was a patrol supervisor in District B-3, which covers Mattapan and much of western Dorchester. Last year, he was assigned to the department's anti-corruption unit.
"He's a brilliant administrator, one of the sharpest around," says Captain James Claiborne, who was Sexton's boss at B-3. "The officers at C-11 will be very happy to work for him. He's fair. He's not going to ask anyone to work harder than he does."
Claiborne adds: "He won't always agree with you - but he'll tell you right up front what he thinks. And that's a real valuable commodity in a commander. You can't make everybody happy, but if you tell the truth up front, you can deal with it from there."
This week, as he tried to settle into his new duties on Gibson Street, Sexton said it was "a privilege" to be appointed to Dorchester for his first command assignment.
"I grew up here and have a lot of family and friends here, so there's a real connection for me," said Sexton, who graduated from St. Mark's Grammar School. "It's a big, diverse district and different sections have different needs.
"I think every commander brings something to help build here," Sexton said. "My motto is to make the place better than I found it. Right now, the district will continue to run as it has been until I have enough time to evaluate what's working."
The demands of managing a busy city district will likely be even more difficult in the coming year. Talk of state budget cuts have the BPD bracing for possible personnel cuts of their own. The need to seek "belt-tightening" cost reductions is the reason Linskey gives for moving Greland into his office now. One of Greland's jobs will be to supervise the overtime paid out to police officers who make court appearances, something that Linskey says fits Greland's management style.
"I think we can put some management practices into place to keep cops out on the corners where we need them," said Linskey. "John did a great job in C-11. There are things that change and you want to put fresh eyes in a place to see what we can do differently."
Linskey clearly sees Sexton as a cop with "upper-management" potential and C-11 has been a fertile proving ground for future BPD brass through the years. In addition to Dunford - who is now second-in-command to Commissioner Edward Davis - C-11 has been a rung on the command ladder for Deputy Superintendent Thomas Lee  (2002-2004), who is now the chief of Homicide; and Armstrong, who now commands the Hyde Park district, E-18. Both Dorchester natives proved popular in the Fields Corner command post, but were quickly plucked from the C-11 station for other jobs.
"The young Turks are taking over the department," said one police source who asked to remain unnamed. "Sexton needs a place to cut his teeth and he will be excellent there. But he won't be there in three years."
This week, observers gave Greland good marks for his tenure, calling him a "steady hand" in a neighborhood that still struggles with violent crime and where dozens of civic and crime watch groups expect personal attention from the local commander.
Shelly Goehring, who helps to run the Fuller-Bailey Neighborhood Association near Ashmont station, says that Greland has been increasingly responsive to complaints raised by the group.
"At our last meeting, [Greland] just showed up, unannounced," said Goehring. "I think our best hope is that [Sexton] will be open to building those relationships," she said.
Emmett Folgert, who runs the Dorchester Youth Collaborative in Fields Corner, says that Sexton will find a warm welcome from agencies like his who serve at-risk teens in the neighborhood.
"It's a lynchpin district," said Folgert. "There's great anticipation and we recognize that it's an extremely difficult job. But he should know that there is an infrastructure of community organizations ready to work with the captain. We're ready to hit the ground running with anybody."