BOSTON–The debate over the possible disbandment of the Boston Police Department’s 11-horse mounted patrol unit took an unusual turn earlier today with news that funds for the brigade may have been misappropriated toward the purchase of limited-edition Jonathan Papelbon No. 58 jerseys for cops.
According to sources inside the BPD, hundreds of expensive, hand-stitched replica jerseys of the popular Red Sox closer were purchased using funds earmarked for the embattled mounted unit.
With the city’s stricken budget, cops all over the city were given the jerseys as a non-monetary bonus this past spring, said the source. “The whole thing is kind of blowing up in their faces now. The BPD obviously didn’t think shutting down the mounted unit this year would wind up generating such strong protests from city residents.”
As of this writing, the BPD planned to disband the unit at the end of June as a cost-cutting measure.
“It is a blatant lie to suggest they don’t have the resources to keep the unit up and running,” says a department member speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Take a look around the city some time. Those Papelbon jerseys are everywhere and they aren’t cheap.”
The jerseys given to Boston police have a minimal retail value of over $175 each, with some pricier styles containing limited edition patches commemorating the team’s 2007 World Series Championship.
Meanwhile, City Hall held a hearing on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the mounted unit’s fate. According to attendees of the hearing, several off-duty Boston police officers made statements while wearing Papelbon jerseys, including one officer decked out in a special edition green jersey.
“Yeah, I don’t know if they bought those things themselves, but it certainly seems like a heck of a coincidence considering there wasn’t a game at Fenway [Tuesday night]. Now all of a sudden they don’t have the resources available for a mounted unit anymore?” said Francis Crawley of the Back Bay Neighborhood Watch Coalition. “Those horses leave big piles of dung all over the place, but it’d be a shame if they shut down the entire operation because these guys couldn’t just buy a $20 Papelbon T-shirt like everyone else.”
For their part, BPD spokesmen would neither confirm nor deny authorizing purchases of Papelbon jerseys. However, several sources insinuated that team apparel is obtained for plain-clothes cops when needed.
“As a safety measure, our undercover officers occasionally utilize popular clothing and team gear as a way to camouflage themselves in the style of a certain demographic,” said one spokesperson. “It’s possible Papelbon jerseys have been worn by some of our men as a means of blending into atmospheres in which uniformed officers would be met with hostility.”
City council members approached about the story declined to comment. However, several councillors appeared to be wearing semi-transparent white dress shirts which revealed outlines of No. 58 Papelbon jerseys being worn as undershirts.