Editorial: A police explanation

The Boston Police Department owes Mission Hill a detailed, open explanation of how it fumbled last year’s street attack investigation involving murder suspect Edwin Alemany, and BPD Commissioner Ed Davis should deliver that explanation in person at a community meeting.

It is bewildering that Alemany’s wallet and ID were found at the scene, but that he was not even located and questioned. But just as disturbing is that BPD chose not to issue a general community alert about the late-night street attack on a woman.

BPD did mention the attack, weeks after it happened, at the monthly meeting of the Mission Hill Crime Committee. That group has limited attendance and no website or other notification device, and is unknown to neighboring communities that could have been affected such as Roxbury and Jamaica Plain.

Contrast with the one Mission Hill crime that BPD did choose to publicize immediately on its website that very same month in 2012: a man allegedly urinating in public. He was arrested on the very same street as the attack three weeks later. And even though he allegedly ran away from police officers, they were able to find him. How? He left his wallet and ID at the scene. The police used them to track him down.

Why did BPD think it worth issuing a press release about public urination, but not about a woman being strangled into unconsciousness? Why was an ID good enough to track down an alleged urinator, but not an alleged attacker?

As a newspaper, the Gazette is well aware of the challenge of choosing what to publicize and how that process can sometimes go wrong. And of course BPD’s internal investigation must be fair to the detective and other officers involved.

But openness is always the solution. Commissioner Davis rightfully has been refreshingly frank, in a few public statements, about admitting some obvious screw-ups in this investigation, and BPD could be saying much more about its decision-making process and how it will work going forward.

The bottom line is, Mission Hill and other Boston neighborhoods cannot feel certain that BPD will adequately alert us to violent attackers who may be roaming our streets. That’s unacceptable. Commissioner Davis needs to come here and tell us as much as he can about what happened in the past, and everything that will happen in the future.

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