City, state police prepare for a vast security task

Other events add to funeral needs

By Maria Cramer
Globe Staff / August 28, 2009

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With President Obama and three former presidents, nearly half the US Senate, and foreign dignitaries expected to attend Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s funeral Mass tomorrow, Boston police will inundate city streets with between 1,000 and 2,000 officers who will be forced to contend with an unusual confluence of high-profile events, according to two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the plans.

Boston police were meeting with the Secret Service late yesterday afternoon to coordinate security plans for today’s events at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and tomorrow’s funeral on Mission Hill, which are expected to draw large crowds of mourners.

Prime Minister Brian Cowen of Ireland, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and dozens of other members of Congress are expected at the funeral. Obama, who is scheduled to give the eulogy, is expected to come to Boston tonight to avoid Tropical Storm Danny, which could arrive in the region tomorrow.

The funeral of one of Massachusetts’ most prominent and beloved figures, at a basilica in Mission Hill, has forced Boston police to swiftly adjust their plans for what was already expected to be a busy weekend.

The funeral will occur about two hours before the start of the Caribbean Festival in nearby Dorchester, an annual event that draws not only families and colorfully dressed performers but also gang members, who have previously taken advantage of the large crowds to find rivals and settle feuds violently.

At the same time, many college students will be returning to the city for move-in day, and the Red Sox are scheduled to play at Fenway Park that evening.

Boston police have requested extra help from State Police. About 60 troopers and State Police sergeants will bolster security for today’s viewing at the JFK Library in Dorchester, according to State Police.

Tomorrow, 75 troopers and sergeants will help with the funeral and the festival, said State Police Lieutenant David Wilson.

At least 50 officers from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will be patrolling the Red, Green, and Orange subway lines, which would be used by mourners to get to the JFK Library and the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, where the funeral will take place, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the plans.

Those transit officers would stay in place for the Caribbean festival, said the official, who added that MBTA police also are considering conducting random bag checks of passengers.

Deputy Chief Joseph O’Connor of the MBTA police would not confirm whether bags will be checked, but said, “We reserve the right to run that program at any time at any station.’’

During the funeral, crowds will be kept away from the church, Boston Police Superintendent Daniel Linskey said yesterday at a news conference, adding that mourners not invited to the Mass might have a better view of the motorcade and service from their television screens.

Tickets to those invited to the funeral are expected to be distributed at the Tobin Community Center in Roxbury, which will act as a host site for the Kennedy family during the viewing this afternoon and the funeral, according to a source familiar with the plans.

Linskey said the department’s goal is to make sure the area remains secure without overwhelming the Kennedy family with a heavy police presence.

“It’s kind of a balancing act to make sure that we can provide the tribute that we want to provide to the senator and his family and that we can ensure that that’s done safely,’’ he said.

Boston police were hoping for additional support from departments outside the city. But those departments have already committed to sending officers to tomorrow’s funeral of Weymouth police officer Michael Davey, who was struck by a vehicle Monday while directing traffic.

But, Linskey said, “We have sufficient numbers of resources to deal with the myriad of issues we’re going to have to deal with Saturday. Our officers will do what they do event after event. They’ll work very hard, and we’ll get by.’’

Police will take several precautions, Linskey said, to avoid violence at the festival. In the past, police have conducted early morning sweeps of the area, arresting people with open warrants.

Tomorrow, officers will be patrolling the festival with cameras in an attempt to dissuade anyone from provoking violence, he said. Hidden surveillance cameras will also be in place, feeding live video to the department’s command center, where officers can track the movements of those at the festival.

Those labeled “impact players’’ - gang members and criminals who police believe are responsible for shootings and other violent acts - will have probation restrictions that forbid them from attending the festival.

Police also will crack down on public drinking and issue $200 citations to anyone caught with alcohol on the streets, Linskey said.

The weather could be on the side of law enforcement. Tropical Storm Danny could bring a windy deluge tomorrow that would thin the crowds at Kennedy’s funeral and at the festival.

“Sometimes rain can be a police officer’s best friend,’’ Linskey said.

Globe staff writer Stephanie Ebbert contributed to this report. Maria Cramer can be reached at