Special to the Patriot-Bridge
Mayor Michelle Wu joined Boston Housing Authority (BHA) Administrator Kenzie Bok, former Administrator Kate Bennett, and members of BHA’s South Street community to mark the opening of a new BHA Police headquarters at the agency’s South Street public housing community in Jamaica Plain. Mayor Wu also announced the appointment of Shumeane Benford as Chief of the BHA Police Department, which he has built up significantly over the past few years. Benford currently serves as the Chief of the City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM). He will remain in that role until after the 2024 Boston Marathon. The City intends to hire a new OEM Chief ahead of the Marathon to allow the incoming director to learn from the preparations for and implementation of the office’s operations during an important large-scale event.
“We’re thrilled to cut the ribbon on a beautiful new home for Boston Housing Authority police to support their continued community partnership,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Under Chief Shumeane Benford’s leadership, the department will continue to grow and support the vibrant BHA communities that are an important part of every neighborhood in Boston.”
“BHA Police play a vital role in connecting the Boston Police Department with our public housing residents. Their dedication, their professionalism, and the trust and respect they have earned with residents are crucial to the mission of making our communities safe,” said BHA Administrator Kenzie Bok. “We need people at the helm who recognize that the best public safety comes when our police are able to work hand-in-hand with social supports, youth programs, addiction services, maintenance staff, and housing managers. Chief Shumeane Benford has worked miracles in strengthening the BHA Police Department in the last few years, and we’re so pleased to be able to make his leadership of the department official.”
The BHA Police Department currently consists of nine full-time and part-time sworn officers who provide quality of life and liaison services to supplement the work of the Boston Police Department (BPD) in and around BHA communities. BHA Police officers provide support to BPD during large scale events such as the Boston Marathon and are part of BHA’s larger efforts to ensure that the Authority’s public housing communities are integrated into the larger communities where they are located.
As part of the FY24 budget, Mayor Wu added vital funding for BHA’s public safety department in the City’s operating budget. With this funding, which was approved by the Boston City Council, five additional officers are currently training in the police academy as the department works to develop an engagement-based strategy for identifying public safety needs across BHA communities. When the additional officers graduate in January, the department will grow by more than 50%.
“Throughout my career, I have focused on creating a safe, thriving city for all residents and families across our city’s neighborhoods,” said Chief Shumeane Benford. “From my work at the Office of Emergency Management, I have seen firsthand the crucial role the members of the BHA Police play each and every day in making our communities safe and connecting residents with resources. I’m thankful to Mayor Wu and Administrator Bok for the opportunity and look forward to building on the BHA Police’s strong foundation.”
The BHA’s Public Safety Department is a recognized law enforcement department by the Massachusetts Police Training Committee (MPTC) and the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission (POSTC). The department was certified by the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission (MPAC) on June 21, 2023. The BHA Police was the only police agency in Boston, with the exception of the Boston Police Department, to retain its certification after the state enacted vital police reforms to enhance professionalism and training among registered police officers in Massachusetts. Under Chief Benford’s leadership, BHA police qualified for the designation in order to demonstrate the department’s commitment to professionalism, equitable enforcement, and implementing best practices in policing.
As the Department has grown, BHA Police has been working to implement a new model for policing at the BHA which will assign a core team of BHA police for each BPD District. With the additional Officers, BHA Police will be able to enhance this model by assigning a team per police district. Each team will work closely with the respective BPD district, BHA residents, and other stakeholders on coordinated actions to address issues of crime and quality of life concerns. BHA Police has also worked closely with the Boston Police Department on technical and data enhancements to the BHA address portfolio in the BPD computer aided dispatch system. These improvements are expected to help improve inter-agency response, coordination, and communication.
The new station, which will serve as a permanent headquarters for BHA Police, was previously an underutilized structure used by BHA maintenance staff to store roofing supplies. BHA began renovating the building envelope in 2022 and the interior structure in 2023.