Police boat drifts away unnoticed

Recovered craft suffers $75,000 in damage

By Maria Cramer
Globe Staff / April 23, 2010

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The Boston Police Department’s Intercept fastboat is a sleek, 27-foot-long craft outfitted with twin 300-horsepower engines and designed to outperform much bigger vessels.

But it was not exactly slicing through the water when city officers found it drifting underneath the Summer Street bridge last month, clanging against the supports, according to a police report. The $250,000 boat sustained $75,000 worth of damage to the port side and both engines.

Police say the boat came loose from its mooring on March 14, a day of heavy wind and rainstorm, and then drifted into the Fort Point Channel because the officers assigned to the unit did not see it float away.

The boat went missing as early as 3 a.m. and was spotted again at 6 a.m., according to a police report.

“Due to inattentiveness, it sustained additional damage,’’ Elaine Driscoll, spokeswoman for the Boston Police Department, said yesterday.

The gray boat, called the “Night Cat,’’ is one of seven in the harbor unit’s fleet. The boat was given to the department by the federal government in 2002, police said. The craft is usually docked at a floating lift at the Black Falcon Terminal in the South Boston Waterfront District.

The three officers on duty the night the boat floated away were transferred to other districts less than two weeks later.

“It was done so in the best interest of the department,’’ Driscoll said of the transfers. “I wouldn’t get into specifics as to why we made that personnel change.’’

But the incident comes as union officials are complaining there are not enough supervisors for the harbor patrol, an elite division responsible for watching over the waters of the Boston Harbor.

Union leaders in the Boston Police Superior Officers Federation — which represents the city’s sergeants, lieutenants, and captains — have made direct appeals to Commissioner Edward F. Davis urging him to place more supervisors during the late shift for the harbor unit and the bomb squad.

The union has filed a complaint with the state Division of Labor Relations decrying the lack of supervisors.

Driscoll said there is no plan to place a supervisor on the last half shift, which goes from midnight to 7:45 a.m., even though there are sergeants overseeing officers during the other two shifts. “Currently at night we have a captain who is in charge of overseeing the city,’’ Driscoll said. “We would consider that captain as the supervisor for that unit.’’

Driscoll said she did not know why no one was watching the boat the night it was damaged. Thomas Nee — president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, which represents the officers — said he believes the terrible conditions of that night made it hard to see the boat at all.

But Nee said a supervisor probably would not have been able to help recover the boat any faster than the patrol officers did. The waters were so choppy and the wind so strong that it would have been dangerous to try, he said. “Twenty supervisors couldn’t have secured or recovered that boat any differently,’’ he said. “It was an act of Mother Nature.’’

Maria Cramer can be reached at

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