Infusion of new detectives to aid districts

Flush with a newly pinned batch of detectives, the Boston Police Department is hoping the reinforcements will help local police districts to further improve crime clearance rates and relieve overburdened investigators in the new year. The increased investigative help could also lead to the revival of a presently-defunct Cold Case Unit that takes aim at closing older, unsolved murder cases that continue to haunt the neighborhoods.

The department promoted 64 men and women to the detective rank on Monday during an afternoon service at Jubilee Christian Center in Mattapan. Commissioner Edward Davis said that the new detectives - the most promoted at one time in the department's recent history- should make an immediate difference throughout the city's districts and various specialized units.

In brief remarks on Monday, Davis told the new crop of detectives - most of them seasoned patrol officers who passed two examinations and weeks of special training to earn the promotion- that the department would count on them to use their street smarts and contacts to solve cases.

"You are only as good as the people you know and the people who trust you," Davis said.

The promotions are welcome news for some local police districts, some of which are presently overwhelmed by case loads. The work load has been complicated by a delay in this latest round of promotions, which was caused by concerns that an earlier detectives' exam was compromised by a leak that could have given some candidates answers to the written test. Davis voided the results of a June test after he learned of the leak. A second exam was held in October.

According to the Associated Press, the department employed 326 detectives on the force last year. The detectives union has said that the department should have at least another 70 detectives to keep up with the workload.

Captain John Greland, commander at the Area C-11 district, says all the district captains have been eager to get the help.

"If I'm lucky, and no one has a day off, I have three detectives on the day shift right now, and three at night. Now, I'll have four - and sometimes six - for each shift. It will really help with the caseload, because if an arrest isn't made at scene on robberies or B&E's, they are going to get solved by detectives."

The Reporter has also learned that BPD Superintendent Bruce Holloway has initiated discussions about re-launching a cold case unit within the BPD's homicide division to revisit older murder cases that have gone unsolved. Davis told the audience at Jubilee on Monday that Superintendent Holloway had been conducting "outreach to the victims in older cases" and that the department believed that "more information bubbles up over time."

Sources within the department confirm that a decision about reviving that unit could be imminent.

The department maintained an active Cold Case Unit throughout much of the 1990s, but the unit was disbanded in recent years. In its hey-day, the unit was successful in closing a number of older cases, including the 1990 murder of 15 year-old Robert Noble, a Cedar Grove teen gunned down on Ashmont Street. Eight years later, the BPD's cold case unit determined that the murder was committed by another Dorchester teen, Fernando Gomes, who was himself slain in New York City in 1992.

Tina Chery, who runs the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, says that a focus on older, unsolved cases would be "welcome news" to the families that she works with.

"This is something that we've been advocating for," said Chery. "And it will make it easier on the detectives too, who are overworked and understaffed."