Leo J. Sullivan

Leo J. Sullivan
Commissioner of the Boston Police Department
In office
Preceded by Thomas F. Sullivan
Succeeded by Edmund McNamara
Suffolk County Register of Deeds
In office
Preceded by W. T. A. Fitzgerald
Succeeded by Joseph D. Coughlin
Member of the Massachusetts Senate from the 4th Suffolk District
In office
Preceded by John E. Kerrigan
Succeeded by John E. Powers
Personal details
Born December 8, 1905
South Boston
Died February 1, 1963 (aged 57)
South Boston
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Saint Anselm College

Leo J. Sullivan (December 8, 1905 – February 1, 1963) was an American government official from Boston who served as commissioner of the Boston Police Department from 1957 to 1962.

Early life

Sullivan was born on December 8, 1905 in South Boston.[1] He attended The English High School and Saint Anselm College.[2]

Political career

Sullivan began his political career in 1934 as an unsuccessful candidate for the Massachusetts House of Representatives. It would be the only defeat he suffered in his career. He was elected to the House in 1936 and served there from 1937 to 1941. From 1941 to 1947 he represented the 4th Suffolk District in the Massachusetts Senate.[1] In 1946 he defeated 40-year incumbent W. T. A. Fitzgerald to become Suffolk County Register of Deeds. As register, Sullivan worked to modernize the office. This included photostating every document which came through the registry and making microfilms of all the records in the land division.[3] Sullivan managed Foster Furcolo's campaign in Suffolk County during the 1956 gubernatorial election.[2]

Police Commissioner

In 1957, Furcolo appointed Sullivan to the position of Boston police commissioner.[4] During his tenure as commissioner, Sullivan broke up the special service squad, established a juvenile squad, and eliminated 101 positions from the department (which saved the city $550,000 a year). He supported consolidation of stations and opposed legislation to return the department under city control.[5] In 1961, CBS aired a program called "Biography of a Bookie Joint", which showed police officers entering and exiting Swartz's Key Shop, an illegal gambling parlor.[6]

Governor John A. Volpe hired James D. St. Clair to prepare removal proceedings against Sullivan.[7] After Sullivan refused to resign, Volpe brought him before the Massachusetts Governor's Council's on charges of splitting renovation and repair contracts, failing to advertise contract bids, engaging in the insurance business while serving as commissioner, and neglecting his duty by not ordering an investigation into the officers who were filmed visiting Swartz's Key Shop. Sullivan resigned on March 15, 1962, during the hearings on his removal.[6]


Sullivan died on February 1, 1963, at his home in South Boston.[2]


  1. ^ a b Public Officers of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 1945-46. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Mass at 10 A.M. Monday For Ex-Comr. Sullivan". The Boston Globe. February 2, 1963.
  3. ^ "Boston's New Police Head: If He's as Good as His Father, He's OK". The Boston Daily Globe. September 8, 1957.
  4. ^ "Sullivan Picks Hennessy As Police Superintendent". The Boston Daily Globe. September 6, 1957.
  5. ^ O'Donnell, Richard W. (November 29, 1961). "Police Head to Retire in '64". The Boston Globe.
  6. ^ a b Wysocki, Ronald (March 16, 1962). "Bonner Delivers Sullivan's Letter". The Boston Globe.
  7. ^ "Ouster Case in Boston". The New York Times. December 20, 1961.

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