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Boston’s chief taxi regulator suspended

Mark A. Cohen left his West Roxbury home in October.

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/File 2012

Mark A. Cohen left his West Roxbury home in October.

Boston’s chief taxi regulator, whose department is under fire for its haphazard oversight of the city’s $1 billion cab industry, has been suspended for alleged misconduct with a Boston Police Department employee.

Mark Cohen, who has been regulating city taxis since the 1980s, has been placed on paid leave from his $110,000-a-year position as the civilian director of licensing for the Police Department.

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Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said Friday that Cohen will not return until the completion of an internal inquiry into a reported heated exchange between Cohen and an employee of the police hackney unit which Cohen directs.

In a related development, Davis said he has opened an investigation into the apparent mismanagement of funds intended to aid the families of taxi drivers who die on duty, money that was collected by Cohen’s unit and that is now unaccounted for.

The missing bereavement fund money and a lopsided system of enforcement by Cohen’s department which regularly punishes drivers but abides egregious conduct by cab owners were among the central findings of a nine-month Globe Spotlight Team investigation.

The Spotlight Team also found that drivers are routinely forced to pay petty bribes in order to get the keys to their cabs. Meanwhile, owners regularly violate Police Department regulations without fear of sanction.

Last week, the day after the Globe series began, Mayor Thomas M. Menino ordered a sweeping review into how Boston’s taxis are regulated and managed, an examination that could ultimately terminate the Police Department’s historic role as the enforcement agency over those who drive and those who own the 1,825 cabs rolling through city streets.

Cohen’s alleged misconduct with a subordinate and the increased and intense scrutiny of his hackney unit are not unrelated, according to an official with direct knowledge of the incident.

“I think the stress is getting to him and he had words with an employee,’’ said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment about internal personnel matters.

Cohen’s suspension became effective on Thursday when he was formally placed on administrative leave.

Through a department spokeswoman, Cohen declined comment on Friday.

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