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Going Red: 24 Boston police officers becoming city firefighters

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In this photo from July 15, 2022, firefighters haul hose into the scene of a multi-alarm fire at 23 Lithgow St in Dorchester in Boston, MA. (Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald/TNS)

Sean Philip Cotter

Boston Herald

BOSTON — Two dozen Boston Police officers are shedding the blue for the red this year, switching over to Boston Fire in an unusually large swing among the city’s first responders.

Data provided by the city shows that 24 Boston police officers have transferred to the fire department in 2022, enrolling in the academy to become firefighters. That’s compared with four, zero, six and one over the previous four years.

On the flip side, only one Boston firefighter became a city police lofficer this year — and that was the first time since at least before 2018 that that had happened at all.

Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association President Larry Calderone said the department is “losing officers to the fire department at an alarming rate because, at the end of the day, it’s a great job.”

“Great wages. Great working conditions. No forced overtime. A great quality of life and, arguably, greater respect,” Calderone said in a statement to the Boston Herald. “The officers leaving will tell you they’re sick and tired of being taken for granted and disrespected by the never ending criticism associated with the ‘defund the police’ movement.”

This summer, the BPPA complained about at least five officers being forced to work 24 hours straight to manage events.

The union has said that current staffing levels are far below what is required in a 1980s-era city ordinance that required a minimum 2,500 officers in the city starting on July 1, 1980, and that thereafter, “additional officers shall be hired from time to time as needed so as to insure (sic) that the number of Police Officers on the force shall, at no time, be less than” 2,500.

At the time of the BPPA complaint in July, the department said it had 2,051 employees, with about 105 potential future officers set to graduate from the academy by the end of the year.

During this past budget cycle, city councilors proposed slashing further money from the department’s overtime budget and putting that cash toward other programs, but the mayor vetoed that move and had enough councilors on her side to sustain it. Calls to “defund the police” have echoed for the past two years following the protests sparked by the police murder of George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota.

“Mayor Wu is committed to ensuring the City workforce reflects Boston’s neighborhoods and the residents we serve, including our public safety agencies,” a spokesman for Mayor Michelle Wu said when asked about whether this is a concern. “Our administration is working to break down barriers to expand opportunities across every department in city government.”

Cam Goggins of Live Boston, a nonprofit that works with first-responder groups across both police and fire, chalked the exodus up to what many cops see as the understaffing of the police department and the forced overtime.

“It speaks to the culture of the Boston Police Department where the pressure of that understaffing has rolled down onto the shoulders of the officers,” he said, also saying that the “anti-police rhetoric” from politicians had further decreased morale. “We’ve lost staffing and we’ve also increased the workload — we’ve increased the pressure on these officers so that it’s unsustainable.”

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©2022 MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at bostonherald.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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