You can find Boston College’s latest hire right smack in the middle of campus.
“I want to be where the offices are, I want to be where the action is—this is where it is, Middle Campus,” says BCPD’s new chief, Bill Evans.
Entering his fourth week on the job after taking over for the now-retired chief John King, Evans is beginning to settle into his routine at his home in BCPD command. His walls are adorned with countless medals from his various escapades during his over 30 years of service to the Boston Police Department, right down to the many different literal hats he wore over his tenure, which led to a five-year stint as commissioner.
“I loved my role as police commissioner, I miss it, but I think I left the city in great shape,” Evans said. “Crime went down almost 20 percent in my term there, our arrests went down almost 25 percent, I think our favorability was very high.
“At the same time, this was a great opportunity, I want to thank [University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J.] and everyone for bringing me in on board,” he said.
The University’s Catholic identity really appealed to Evans. A graduate of all-boys Catholic school St. Sebastian’s in Needham, Mass., Evans credits the Church with throwing him a lifeline that has eventually brought him to BC’s doorstep. Fr. Paul White, a Catholic priest, stepped in to help Evans after he lost his mother while he was an infant, his father when he was 14, and brother shortly afterward. Evans’ brothers took care of him, but it was the Church who changed his life.
“I didn’t have the money, and I always say I didn’t have the grades either, but he gave me the opportunity of a lifetime … an opportunity that really saved me.”
Since his journey has been aided by religion, it has also shaped his policing philosophy. Evans saw himself in the inner city kids he was tasked with protecting and disciplining: Kids coming from broken homes and very poor socioeconomic conditions. So the commissioner decided to approach working with such Boston residents from the perspective his mentors did: They aren’t bad kids, they’re kids who need an opportunity.
Now, he’s responsible for taking care of kids in a different situation, but he doesn’t look at BC students without keeping in mind the lessons he learned while in Boston.
In his first month on the job, Evans said move-in and the football games have been the standout events he’s been on duty for. He expressed his excitement to be a part of the community, as well as his readiness to start making in a difference in the safety situations most pertinent to BC.
“There’s different challenges in this job than this last job, but it’s been very good,” he said. “I’m a dad, I’m the police chief, but your safety is my utmost concern.”
There are two perspectives Evans is approaching his new post with: The perspective of a police veteran who’s run a police department for five years after growing up rising through its ranks, and the perspective of a parent who has sent his son through BC.
He says his main concerns are helping students through alcohol related incidents, incidents regarding sexual assault, and protecting students from the inherent dangers of hopping in Ubers late at night or inebriated. In order to serve the student body as well as possible, Evans believes emphasizing the idea of “community policing,” an idea he honed while in BPD, is tantamount to showing students BCPD isn’t populated with a bunch of robots.
Evans is starting those efforts by focusing his department on mental health. Students, especially freshmen, experience lots of anxiety due to leaving home for the first time. Evans wants his officers to be ready to deal with mental health issues being the inciting incident for calls they end up receiving in dispatch, citing a study he read that says mental health tends to be a bigger issue than people think.
By taking a more educated tack in regards to such sensitive issues, Evans is hoping his officers, as well as students, can better understand that the role of police isn’t the same in 2018 as it was when he first began his police work.
“We always look at that warrior versus guardian image of police officers,” Evans said. “The image of warrior is long gone. Our role now is to be a guardian and make sure these kids get the social services they need and the safety that they deserve on campus.”
“Across America in policing, that’s the whole idea: the image. The old way when I came on the department 38 years ago, we were warriors. Now we’re guardians. That’s the image that I want to stick. We’re watching out for the safety and well being of our students.”
These days, Evans is trying to influence the image of BCPD much in the way he had to influence BPD’s influence in the early 2000s while he was a captain in Allston-Brighton. He found himself working on a daily basis with local universities on how to police football games and other sporting events, as well as dealing with various off-campus activities.
In Evans’s opinion, in the 10 years since he became superintendent and eventually commissioner of BPD, the issues surrounding policing schools have vastly improved. Programs have been implemented to curb overconsumption of alcohol, and by maintaining a dialogue with local colleges, Evans believes he was able to approach their issues much more effectively. And he says that idea—open communication—isn’t something he’s going to abandon just because his office looks out on the Plex and Conte Forum these days.
Featured Image Courtesy of WBUR