By Dan Murphy
On the eve of his retirement from a 39-year career with the Boston Police, Superintendent Bernard “Bernie” O’Rourke was feted by scores of friends and colleagues at Ned Devine’s Pub at Faneuil Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 11.
O’Rourke, who turned 64 the next day, joined the department in 1978 as a member of its mounted unit before serving as a patrol officer for District D-4 and D-14, covering the Back Bay, Fenway and the South End, and Brighton and Allston, respectively. He was promoted to captain in 1998 and came to District A-1 a year after that.
After serving for 12 year as commander of the district, which includes Beacon Hill, Chinatown, downtown and Charlestown, O’Rourke was named deputy superintendent of Bureau of Field Services in 2011. He was promoted to superintendent of the bureau three years later. During his time with the bureau, O’Rourke was instrumental in providing police coverage during the 71-day Occupy Boston demonstrations in Dewey Square in 2011, as well for New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox championship parades in recent years.
A fellow South Boston native who rose the ranks of the department alongside O’Rourke, Commissioner William Evans described O’Rourke as among the “most capable” on the force.
“You give him a task, and it’s going to get done,” Evans remarked during the speaking segment of O’Rourke’s retirement party. “He’s nice and steady, and doesn’t get alarmed by anything.”
Upon assuming the role of mayor of Boston three years ago, Martin Walsh told O’Rourke it was reassuring to know that the veteran officer was among the top brass on the city’s police department.
“I knew that people who worked for you loved and respected you, and that it was all going to work out,” Mayor Walsh said.
Walsh also credits officers like O’Rourke for the declining crime rates in Boston at a time when other cities nationwide are seeing their numbers skyrocket.
Christine Vraibel, who served under O’Rourke for years as an Area A-1 community service officer, said, “He’s a wonderful man, He was a great boss, and he’ll be missed.”
Lt. Tom Lema, who also previously reported to O’Rourke in Area A-1, lauded him as a “no-nonsense leader of the police with a gentle heart.”
George Coorssen of Tremont Street first met O’Rourke 17 years ago on the day he took the reins of Area A-1.
“He was always professional, but he has a great sense of humor,” Coorssen said. “He was very good at what he did.”
Paula O’Keeffe, chair of the Beacon Hill Civic Association Safety Committee, said “I could always call Bernie with my problems, and he’d be right on top of things.”
O’Keefe added, “As [former Boston Police Commissioner] Ed Davis said, ‘he has a really loyal following.’ Bernie truly is a one of a kind”
True to form, O’Rourke remained humble as he reluctantly found himself in the spotlight.
“I’m overwhelmed by my all my friends who have turned out here tonight. Words can’t express how I feel,” O’Rourke said. “It’s been a great 39 years, but now I’m looking forward to my retirement.”