“Soul Patrol”: The Story of Boston’s All-black, Short-lived, Very Successful Tactical Police Unit

Roll call at District 2 in Roxbury. (Bill Brett/The Boston Globe)
Roll call at District 2 in Roxbury. (Bill Brett/The Boston Globe)

Three years into his police career, Preston Williams’s reality of becoming a police officer didn’t match the dreams he had as a kid growing up in Roxbury.

It was 1971, and Williams was on foot patrol on Washington Street in his neighborhood, assigned to the midnight to 8 a.m. shift. He didn’t have a partner. He wasn’t in a cruiser. He wasn’t responding to calls.

So when Deputy Chief Herbert Craigwell asked if Williams might want to be part of a brand-new, all-black special unit formed by then-commissioner Edmund McNamara, Williams was ready.

“I felt like I was better served to do this than walking Washington Street,” he says today. “The police department back when I came on, and even today, there was a lot of talent they had, but they never used it. Either they didn’t like you, or you weren’t the right color.”

Williams joined 34 or so other black police officers in the strike force that was quickly nicknamed the “Soul Patrol.” The group made up more than half of the black officers within the 2,742-man department. They focused on high-crime areas in Dorchester and Roxbury, where there had been a spate of violence, including four murders.

Three years into his police career, Preston Williams’s reality of becoming a police officer didn’t match the dreams he had as a kid growing up in Roxbury.

It was 1971, and Williams was on foot patrol on Washington Street in his neighborhood, assigned to the midnight to 8 a.m. shift. He didn’t have a partner. He wasn’t in a cruiser. He wasn’t responding to calls.

So when Deputy Chief Herbert Craigwell asked if Williams might want to be part of a brand-new, all-black special unit formed by then-commissioner Edmund McNamara, Williams was ready.

“I felt like I was better served to do this than walking Washington Street,” he says today. “The police department back when I came on, and even today, there was a lot of talent they had, but they never used it. Either they didn’t like you, or you weren’t the right color.”

Williams joined 34 or so other black police officers in the strike force that was quickly nicknamed the “Soul Patrol.” The group made up more than half of the black officers within the 2,742-man department. They focused on high-crime areas in Dorchester and Roxbury, where there had been a spate of violence, including four murders.

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SOURCE: Allison Manning
Boston.com

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