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A minority police officers group is vowing that support for Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis will be an issue in this year's mayoral race.
The Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers says Davis is not committed to diversity. On Tuesday, the group took a vote of no confidence in Davis and his second in command, Superintendent in Chief Daniel Linskey.
Tensions came to a head last week when the Boston Police Department announced the names of five officers being promoted to sergeant: four men and one woman, all of them white. Twenty-one officers tied for a top score on the civil service exam — nine of them minorities.
"The commissioner will argue, at times, that civil service prohibits from bypassing anyone," said Larry Ellison, president of MAMLEO. "Well all these folks had the same score, everyone here was equal."
After criticism and a public outcry, two more of those candidates who had tied for top score were promoted — both men of color.
Ellison says this is not the first time the commissioner has overlooked women and minorities; he says it was an issue on the last civil service exam.
"They were making another round of promotions. There were two sergeants of color and a female, at which time there were no female lieutenants in the Boston Police Department," Ellison said. "People went to the commissioner and implored him for the lack of diversity that he should consider those two officers of color and the female. He promoted all the white males from that list and let the list die with those two officers of color and the female on it."
Ellison says any mayoral candidate who declares they will keep Davis as commissioner will be "vigorously" opposed by MAMLEO.
Two of those candidates, Boston City Councilors Charles Yancey and Mike Ross, were at MAMLEO headquarters in Dorchester Wednesday. Neither would say they want to remove Davis from office. Both said their concern is about diversity.
"How can we have a city of Boston that's 53 percent people of color and not have one person of color heading up any of the 11 police districts in the city of Boston?" Yancey said.
Ross, who chairs the City Council's Public Safety Committee, says there are not enough women and people of color serving on the force or in positions of leadership.
"If you have a police department that at its core relies on the trust of the community and that police department doesn't reflect the community that it serves, by definition it's going to struggle to have the type of relationship it needs to effectively do its job," Ross said.
Michael Curry, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP, has sent a letter to the commissioner asking for actions and timelines for improving diversity.
"We don't have that seat at the leadership table within the Boston Police Department," Curry said. "When it comes to policies, use of force and so forth, we need officers of color at the table to make sure that they work for our communities. That's why it matters."
Davis and the police department did not respond to several requests for comment on this story. Curry notes the national NAACP office has asked about his branch's relationship with the Boston commissioner. They've been asked to weigh in now that Davis has been catapulted into the spotlight as a result of how he handled the Boston Marathon bombings.
This program aired on August 8, 2013.
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