Claiborne is heading to Harvard

Captain James Claiborne, who has led policing efforts in Dorchester and Mattapan since 2006, will leave his post as commander of the Area B-3 district later this month. Claiborne, 57, is retiring from the Boston Police Department to become a deputy chief of police at Harvard University.

Once considered a likely candidate for police commissioner, Claiborne has served with the Boston Police Department for 30 years – 23 of them on the department’s command staff.

A resident of Mattapan, Claiborne has managed the difficult task of maintaining good relations  with both residents and cops under his command, including many young officers who have cut their policing teeth on the streets of B-3.

“One of the things I’m proudest of are the people we have working here,” Claiborne told the Reporter on Tuesday. “Two and a half years ago, about half of the officers at B-3 were transferred out and replaced mostly with recruits. We endeavored to have our new officers train with the very best people, who taught them how to treat others well. I think that’s made us a very well-rounded police station.”

The district can boast of improvements in battling crime under Claiborne, too. The district posted some 3,000 arrests last year and officers from B-3 netted 35 percent of the medals of honor distributed citywide. The district saw a steady decline in most crime categories on Claiborne’s watch.

“I never had to worry about B-3 once Jim Claiborne was there,” said Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, who this week characterized Claiborne’s departure as “our loss, Harvard’s gain.”

“Jim has driven the crime rate down and he’s made the police department more accountable. Jim’s done a great job reaching out in a community that really needed a jump-start at the grassroots level.”

Under Claiborne, some 20 new crime watches sprouted on the district – a growth that Claiborne believes will be sustained after his departure. “We now know who the ‘go-to’ people are in each part of the district and that information is so invaluable,” Claiborne said.

Lillie Searcy, the executive director of ABCD’s Mattapan Family Service Center, said that Claiborne’s departure would be viewed as a “big loss.”

“He definitely believes in community policing and worked very closely with the community- particularly at the monthly B-3 meetings at Mildred Avenue [Community Center],” said Searcy. “He listened to the concerns we had and he was responsive.

“It is sad to lose him and hopefully the next person will continue to work with the community,” said Searcy. It’s also good for him to be at Harvard and bring that back to the community. Hopefully he’ll stay engaged as a citizen, even though he won’t be heading up the police district.”

Claiborne said this week that he expects to remain active as a board member of the Dorchester Boys and Girls Club and the Franklin Field Community Center, a facility for which he led the charge to renovate and re-open last year.

“Lots of things that have happened on B-3 – Franklin Field’s clubhouse, the summer programs, the boat ride for the seniors – they wouldn’t have happened without the officers here at B-3. I’m really proud of that. And I’m proud of them as people.”

It is fitting, then, that Claiborne’s last scheduled day ‘on the job’ as District Three’s commander will see him preside over one of his favorite events of the year: a Halloween party for kids hosted by B-3 cops at Mildred Ave. Community Center.

Commissioner Davis said this week that no replacement has yet been named for the B-3 command, adding that he expects to make some command decisions in the next month.

“It’s a very hard job to accomplish,” said Davis. “There will be a few weeks of transition. We’ll have some good people around to provide continuity. There are some excellent people who have been working for Jim who are very capable.”

Searcy said Tuesday that she hopes “they get someone who reflects the culture and diversity of the people who live and work and sleep here every day.”