A Boston police official who helped craft training and deployment plans for the Boston Marathon after the 2013 bombings will become the first woman to lead the Boston University Police Department (BUPD) on May 1.
Kelly A. Nee, a 33-year veteran of the Boston Police Department (BPD) and deputy superintendent of its Bureau of Intelligence and Analysis, succeeds Thomas Robbins, who stepped down in September for family time and consulting work.
Nee says her work with the BPD positions her well for leadership of the BU force. “The opportunity to advance and continue my law enforcement career, and stay in the city that I love, was too enticing to pass up,” she says. “The further along I went in the interview process, the more I envisioned that this was a great fit for me. The staff I met…convinced me that I wanted to be part of this team. Their enthusiasm and commitment to the students, faculty, staff, and community was evident.”
Nee rose from a patrol officer in the 1980s to her current job, where she participates in security briefings with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Joint Terrorism Task Force, whose members are local, state, and federal law enforcement officials. She has security clearances from the Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI, and she oversees the collection and dissemination of domestic, international, and cyber intelligence about potential threats.
During her interviews with BU, she says, she was asked what keeps her up at night. “My answer was terrorism or the lone offender attack. I take that concern with me to Boston University, where my number one priority, and the priority of our officers and personnel, is to protect the students, faculty, and staff. I have a priority to meet as many people in the Boston University community as possible. I want to hear what their concerns are, and how we as a department can assist and work with them.”
President Robert A. Brown says Nee’s familiarity with Boston and with BU will serve the University community well. “Ms. Nee knows us well, and she of course knows Boston well, and she very much appreciates how important safety is to our community,” says Brown. “I am pleased to welcome her to Boston University and look forward to working with her to make Boston University and our neighborhood as safe and welcoming as it can be.”
“Ms. Nee is an outstanding professional police officer with extensive experience and a clear and focused approach to her profession,” says Peter Fiedler (COM’77), BU vice president for administrative services. “She is a very down-to-earth person with a collaborative, no-nonsense approach to her professional responsibilities.”
Fiedler says Nee was among a large number of applicants, but one of only 19 the University chose to vet through the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit providing management services to law enforcement agencies.
Nee and two other finalists met with Brown, Fiedler, Jean Morrison, University provost, and Gary Nicksa, senior vice president for operations, who together chose Nee for the chief’s job.
“You’re lucky to get her. It’s a big loss to me,” says William Evans, Boston police commissioner. With the beefed-up security at the Boston Marathon after the bombings, “she was constantly receiving all the intelligence and working with all our partners…to head off any threat to the city of Boston.”
Evans says that after the Red Sox won the 2007 World Series, Nee oversaw security in Kenmore Square, making sure the postvictory celebrations didn’t spiral out of hand. “She really locked it down,” he says. “I’ve seen firsthand how she can handle not only a crowd but any difficult situation.” Last January, with the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, “I put her right back into commanding Kenmore Square because of her capability. She can handle any role I put her in.”
BU will be a good fit for her abilities, according to the commissioner. “No one knows community policing more than she does,” he says. “No one knows women’s issues” as well, including sexual assault.
As BUPD chief, Nee will oversee almost 70 detectives, officers, and command, supervisory, and administrative staff, as well as the 127 professionals who are responsible for Medical Campus Public Safety and NEIDL security. The department secures more than 132 acres of BU-owned property and adjacent streets. It is one of the few campus police forces accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and was the first college force in the country to carry and administer Narcan for heroin overdose victims, an increasingly important tool against the epidemic of that drug.
The department is “in very good shape,” Fiedler says, with its state and national accreditations and “excellent working relationship with the Boston, Brookline, and State Police departments,” and he credits that to Robbins and Scott Paré, who has been the BUPD’s acting chief and will continue as deputy chief and deputy director of public safety.
Prior to her current job with the Boston police, Nee managed 250 detectives and a $50 million plus budget as deputy superintendent of Boston’s Bureau of Investigative Services.
She has commanded special investigative units, from homicide to sex assault and crimes against children; coordinated safety for 60,000 students and staff in Boston’s public schools, spread among 135 buildings; and as a detective with the Youth Violence Strike Force and Drug Control Unit, managed informants, developed deployment plans for violence-plagued neighborhoods, and managed a federal grant to counter gang violence.
Nee earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Western New England College. She has won several city and state commendations, including the Sherman Griffiths Memorial Medal of Honor, the George Hanna Memorial Award for Bravery, and the Detectives Benevolent Association’s Award of Excellence. She and her husband live in Walpole, Mass.