Boston Police Union: City Hall Security 'No Match' for Armed Assailants

May 24, 2024
As violence has escalated at Boston City Hall, the head of the city's police union says officials need to re-examine how the building is secured and keep it in lines with other government buildings.

The head of the city’s largest police union said a person entering Boston City Hall with a gun should be a wake-up call for officials to tighten up security by placing armed police officers at entrances currently manned by unarmed guards.

Metal detectors at a City Hall entrance prevented a man and woman from getting past a security checkpoint with a gun on Wednesday, but the outcome would have been much different had a person gone inside with the intention of firing a weapon, Larry Calderone, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, said.

“If somebody comes in with a firearm and they were intent on inflicting damage, the metal detector is not going to stop them,” Calderone told the Herald Thursday. “Neither are the protective services’ agents, as well-intentioned as they are and as good a job as they do.

“They’re no match for somebody with a weapon, whether it be a knife, a machete or a firearm,” he added. “The ideal situation has an armed police officer at every entrance and exit.”

While City Hall has two to three armed officers from the Boston Police Department in the building at all times, per Calderone, entrances and exits are manned entirely by unarmed security guards known as the Boston Municipal Protective Services, a force that collectively provides security for city buildings.

That differs from what’s seen at other government buildings in Boston. The nearby JFK building in Government Center, where federal lawmakers have offices, has a Capitol and State Police and FBI presence and the State House on Beacon Hill, where the governor and Legislature work, has State Police helping to man security checkpoints at entrances, Calderone said.

“City Hall should be no different,” he said. “The stakes are higher than they’ve ever been, whether it’s demonstrators, protesters, God forbid, terrorism — City Hall is clearly a vulnerable location, and I think that was underscored yesterday.”

When asked whether she thought City Hall was vulnerable, given its current security situation, Mayor Michelle Wu said Thursday that she was “grateful every day for the work of our municipal security officers as well as the Boston Police who are stationed there.”

“I just want to thank them for their quick reaction and immediate response yesterday,” Wu said. “Everything worked as it was supposed to with the metal detectors present at the front and the personnel reacting very quickly and responding with a coordinated response across MSP and the Boston Police Department. I appreciate their efforts.”

Kevin Coughlin, president of the Boston Municipal Patrolmen’s Association, said the city’s municipal officers “secure buildings as best as we can,” but that they would all “feel more comfortable to have the proper training to earn access to the necessary tools to perform our job at all times and keep everyone safe.”

“We are not pushing to be armed,” Coughlin said, “but we are willing to train, learn, and evolve as a department to provide the highest level of security for constituents, workers, and our officers to make it home to our families.”

The debate comes amid concerns that violence is escalating at City Hall, where a Boston Police officer was severely bitten and two other officers were injured while trying to arrest a man who was apparently causing a scene over a canceled City Council meeting last month.

The scuffle took place on the fifth floor, where City Council meetings take place and offices for city councilors and the mayor are located. The area also often draws protesters, who sometimes try to enter the mayor’s office.

The latest incident came Wednesday, when a man and woman who were carrying a gun between them entered the back entrance of City Hall from Congress Street, which leads into the first floor at about noon, according to a Boston Police report.

The report states that members of the Municipal Protective Services alerted Boston Police to a man who tried to enter the building with a woman, and allegedly brandished a gun at an MSP officer before leaving.

“The duo entered the Congress Street entrance of City Hall together,” the report states. “They observed the security system in place at the entrance and at which point the female passed off what appeared to be a firearm from her purse to the male, who tucked it into his waistband. The man then proceeded to conceal the firearm after exiting the building.”

The report notes that after handing off the weapon, the woman proceeded to the marriage license department on the second floor of City Hall, where she stood in front of the department’s window briefly before returning to the ground floor and leaving with the man.

The incident briefly interrupted a City Council meeting, which began at the same time the couple entered City Hall. Police were initially unable to locate the people after “they fled the area” or recover the firearm, a BPD spokesperson said on Wednesday, but the department took a different tone the next day.

“As part of the investigation, it does not appear that the firearm was brandished and no attempt was made to take it through security,” BPD spokesperson Mariellen Burns said. “Officers spoke with both individuals involved. Both are licensed to carry a firearm and were cooperative.”

While some downplayed the danger, a City Hall source described the scare as a clear “security breach,” given that there was a period of time the City Council chamber did not have any Boston police or municipal security officers while the body was meeting and the incident was ongoing. Typically, security is in the Chamber at all times on Wednesdays.

“That’s troubling — thats is clearly a security breach,” the source said, adding that the mayor’s statement that everything worked according to protocol is “inaccurate.”

City Councilor Ed Flynn doubled down on remarks he made on the day of the incident, saying Thursday that, “It’s reckless for elected officials to support defunding the police. There is no place for weapons in any public building.”


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