Following the Boston Marathon bombings in April, Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis was praised for his steady presence during the ordeal and regaled with an honorary degree. His name was even bandied about as a possible candidate for mayor.
Davis decided to sit it out, but his name has remained part of the race, with questions arising about whether he would keep his post under a new leader at City Hall.
Half of the 12 mayoral candidates contacted by the Globe Wednesday said they would ask him to stay on. Five would not commit to keeping him. One did not respond to the question.
“I would absolutely keep Ed Davis in the office,” said Councilor Robert Consalvo, one of the candidates. “Obviously, he was incredible during the terrorist bombings and showed true leadership.”
Candidates also cited the need for consistent leadership, Davis’s ability to connect with residents in some of the city’s toughest neighborhoods, and the general decline in crime since Mayor Thomas M. Menino appointed him commissioner in 2006.
Even with a recent rash of violence that has led to an increase in the number of shootings and homicides in the city, it would be hard for any candidate to reject Davis, political analysts say.
“Davis is tremendously popular right now,” said John Berg, professor of government at Suffolk University. “You don’t want people asking why you’re not supporting him. There are 12 candidates, and the way you don’t want to distinguish yourself is by saying you’re the guy who did not want to keep on Ed Davis.”
Still, the new mayor will have to navigate a host of competing issues as he or she tries to figure out what to do with the top police post in the city. Many in the Police Department say they want a new leader, perhaps the city’s first black or Latino commissioner.
And top union officials say they have been disappointed by Davis’s treatment of captains, lieutenants, and sergeants, who, they believe, have been undervalued under his administration.
Union officials have long complained that under Davis, plum assignments and promotions to the command staff are typically awarded to political favorites, a charge the commissioner has denied.
“It’s time for a change,” said Mark Parolin, vice president of the Boston Police Superior Officers Federation.
“The sergeants, captains, and lieutenants and police officers on the scene were the real heroes of the Marathon, not the commissioner,” Parolin said.
Davis declined to comment for this article.
Federation president Jack Kervin said he was disappointed that the mayoral candidates would endorse Davis without thinking of other possible candidates.
“It is disconcerting and alarming . . . that the mayoral candidates have announced their intention to maintain the status quo within the Boston Police Department by prematurely declaring their intention to retain Police Commissioner Davis, if elected,” he said.
Kervin said he hopes the mayoral candidates consider officers like Superintendent William Gross, the night commander, or former superintendent James Claiborne, who is now deputy chief of the Harvard University Police Department. Both men are black.
Jose Lozano, vice president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, said his organization would also like to see change in the commissioner’s office.
Boston “is made up of a majority-minority community,” he said. “We would like to see a qualified candidate of color being introduced into the mix and someone who reflects the makeup of the city.”
The mayoral candidates who were noncommittal said they need to concentrate on the election, not whom they might replace in Menino’s Cabinet.
“I have not gotten that far in terms of figuring out who I would want to have stay,” said Charlotte Golar Richie, a former Menino aide and the only woman in the race.
“Right now, I’m trying to raise money and run this campaign.”
“I just want to be able to have a conversation with him, and I also don’t know what he wants to do,” Golar Richie said.
Davis has not said whether he would want to serve under a new mayor.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley was the first candidate to express his desire to keep Davis as commissioner in comments to the Boston Herald Wednesday. Conley said Davis called him to thank him for his remarks.
But Davis did not say whether he would stay if he were asked, Conley said.
“For me, it’s a real easy call,” Conley said. “If he were willing to stay on, I would be delighted to have him stay on as my commissioner.”