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Police planning questioned

Too few officers for Super Bowl night, some say

The Boston Police Department assigned only 43 crowd-control officers citywide to handle the thousands of revelers that streamed into the streets after Sunday night's Super Bowl, with just six assigned to the Symphony Road area where a man was killed when an SUV driver drove into a crowd near Northeastern University, documents obtained by the Globe show.

The Police Deployment documents show that only one supervisor and five officers were assigned specifically to control the Symphony Road area, and another supervisor and five officers were sent to Kenmore Square. In those locations, mobs of some 5,000 people each swarmed the streets after Sunday night's game and became unruly.

"There just weren't enough bodies, plain and simple," said a veteran officer who worked in the Symphony Road area Sunday night. "It's not like these things haven't happened before. How did they plan on keeping 5,000 kids on Hemenway [Street] with six cops? There should have been 100." The officer said that police might have been able to curb the unruly behavior of the crowd if they had had enough officers to make arrests before it began to rage out of control. Instead, officers were forced to stand by as initial acts of violence or vandalism incited more.

"If we had the bodies, we could have made 40 to 50 arrests," the officer said. "Symphony Road looked like a war zone. There's no other way to describe it. Garbage, cars flipped over. They ripped the doors off the car -- you couldn't even identify whose it was."

Police officials declined to provide details of their deployment plan for Sunday night, which the Globe obtained independently. Yesterday, they said the deployment documents don't tell the whole story, because additional officers from the department's drug unit and mobile operations unit had been placed on standby and eventually came to the aid of crowd control officers in the worst areas. "The drug unit was there too late to control the crowd," said the officer at Hemenway Street. "It was already out of hand. I don't know how many there were, maybe six or eight of them. But it was just a drop in the bucket."

Police spokeswoman Mariellen Burns defended the department's response and said police were better prepared than in the past. Burns said there was no way to predict that the crowds would turn so violent.

"We had significantly more resources than we had two years ago, yet we didn't have the same problems then," Burns said. "The crowds reacted very differently than in the past."

However, Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox said police should have anticipated trouble and assigned more officers to control the crowds .

"I don't think anyone should have been surprised by what happened," Fox said. "There are many ways to deal with the likelihood of rioting. One is to have a saturated police presence." Fox said the city's experience with Red Sox fans erupting after playoff games demonstrated the need for a show of strength by police on the streets.Around the city, staffing levels were similarly low. Twelve crowd control officers were assigned to patrol North Station and Faneuil Hall. In Allston-Brighton, where unruly fans set off fireworks, threw beer cans, and lit fires, 12 officers stood watch, six in Cleveland Circle and six in the Harvard Avenue area. In addition to the crowd control assignments, two additional officers in each district visited bars to make sure they weren't overcrowded or serving underage drinkers, and two others were assigned to transport prisoners in the event of arrests.

Thomas Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, said he does not understand why more officers were not called in.

"I don't know if they were trying to save money or what the excuse is, but I couldn't believe it," Nee said. "What were they thinking? The sad thing is that someone's loved one is gone. You can fix windows and broken mail boxes. You can't fix that, and it's sad.

"You can't blame package stores or the Legislature," he said. "That's outrageous. It's like blaming weathermen for the snow."

Mayor Thomas M. Menino had blamed universities and Sunday liquor sales for the chaos Sunday night.

Despite rioting that erupted when the Patriots won the Super Bowl two years, the deployment plan for Sunday night was only 10 pages long. The plan for yesterday's victory parade was 53 pages long.

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