Building a Safer Boston
Police Commissioner Evans Discusses the Marathon, Running, and Making the City a Safer Place
Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 17:02
At 55 years old and as a veteran of 45 marathons, Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans considers running an essential part of his life. Each day he wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and goes for a seven to eight mile run, then heads off to a full day of police work. His job of protecting the city of Boston can be very stressful, and he views running as his medicine.
“I like to say I’m more of a runner than a policeman,” Evans said.
Running in his 18th Boston Marathon last year, Evans hoped to be under 3:40 in order to qualify for the next year’s race.
“I remember running and hearing my family and a group of cops cheering for me,” Evans said. “I will never forget crossing that finish line and seeing a bomb dog and explosives technician right in front of my eyes. It is something that I can’t get out of my head.”
After completing the arduous 26.2 miles of the Boston Marathon, Evans headed to the Boston Athletic Club to relax on his day off from police work. Just minutes after entering the hot tub, a Boston police officer ran to share the news of the bombings in Copley Square.
“I immediately thought that this can’t be true—this can’t happen in Boston,” Evans said.
A 33-year veteran of the Boston Police Department, Evans was essentially nurtured to enter the field of criminal justice. Born and raised in South Boston, Evans lived in a lower-class neighborhood, and was brought up by five older brothers. His brother Paul went on to be police commissioner for 10 years, and two other brothers are currently Boston firemen.
“Having that type of upbringing, you have a better understanding of how to treat people,” Evans said. “I believe my rough childhood made me stronger as an individual today.”
After graduating from Suffolk University, and taking leadership classes at Harvard University, then a Homeland Security class in Monterey, Calif., and graduating from the FBI Academy, Evans joined the police force. He started as a cadet in 1980 and worked his way up to be a patrol officer, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and eventually superintendent.
He served nine years as captain in the Allston and Brighton area and partnered with the local communities to reach solutions on crime and social disorder. In 1997, the main concern in these neighborhoods was not robberies, assaults, or murders—instead it was issues surrounding colleges and universities. Evans worked directly with school administrators and strived to make college communities safer. He was instrumental in adding more security at Boston College football games and erecting a fence around BC’s Mods.
For the past four and a half years, Evans has served the superintendent of the Boston Police Department. The captains are in charge of 11 districts throughout Boston, and as superintendent, Evans leads each of them, as well as a gang unit and special operations. On a daily basis, Evans views every police report in order to get an idea of what is going on in the city and then strives to address those issues.
“I watch what crime is going on in the city,” Evans said. “Then I allocate the resources according to that crime. I put a lot more of my resources into rough areas to stop the violent crimes, rather than in less violent areas.”
One challenge Evans faced as superintendent occurred in October 2012, with the Occupy Boston movement. For 70 days, Evans was down near Dewey Square leading the defense to deal with the occupiers. Rather than battling with the protestors, Evans set the tone from the beginning that his men would not be the enemies.
“There was not one incident during Occupy Boston because of my style, ‘killing them with kindness,’” Evans said. “I’m in the 99 percent just like them, and I instructed my officers to talk to the occupiers and truly understand their issues.”
Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, recently promoted Evans to commissioner of the Boston Police Department. Although his role has changed, his focus is still on planning for the next Boston Marathon. Evans and his team have been planning security for the past five months for the event that is set to have a record 35,000 participants this year.
Another part of his job as Commissioner involves working with Walsh and Governor Deval Patrick on reducing violence. There has been an uptick of violence this year, with already 10 homicides and 75 guns taken off the street.
“I look forward to having a very good relationship with Marty Walsh,” Evans said. “We’re a lot alike, and I think we have some of the same goals that will help Boston moving forward.”
On April 15, 2013, Evans faced “probably the biggest challenge I’ll ever encounter in [his] career.” After hearing the news of the marathon bombings, Evans entered what he calls “operational mode.” The next 42 hours tested all of his leadership abilities.
He ran to his home one mile away and rushed to the scene of the bombing.
After completing a full-length marathon, Evans worked 42 straight hours as one of the key leaders in the search for the Boston Marathon bombers. Evans’ relentless leadership was influential in the capture of the alleged terrorist Dzokhar Tsarnaev.
One major conflict arose when President Barack Obama decided to visit Boston. The president came to visit hospitals and hold mass at the Holy Cathedral, while two alleged terrorists were still at-large. While still hunting down the people responsible for the bombing, Evans also had to ensure the safety of the president.
Evans’ most notable role in the aftermath of the bombings was his commanding the search of Watertown. From 1 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 19, Evans and his team of officers methodically searched houses, making sure the location was safe. Having only slept 10 hours all week and running on water and granola bars, it seemed like his day was over until Evans got a dispatch that the suspicious person was hiding in a boat.