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Davis defends police diversity

Raps complaints of minority officers

Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis in April.

Bill Sikes/AP

Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis in April.

Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis lashed out Monday at a minority officers’ group that has called for his resignation, accusing the organization of engaging in “divisive efforts” to undermine the progress he has made on diversity within the ranks.

In an open letter published on the official Police Department website, Davis wrote that the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers “hasn’t proposed legislation or undertaken any valuable initiatives to help its own members or the community.”

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“I urge you [the public] to contact MAMLEO and let the organization know you don’t support its divisive efforts to undermine the progress that has been made” on diversity, Davis added.

The commissioner’s letter came after Larry Ellison, a Boston detective and president of the minority officers’ group, called last month for Davis’s resignation and said the organization would oppose any mayoral candidate who would retain him as commissioner if elected.

At the time, Ellison listed a variety of grievances, including the recent promotion of five white officers to the rank of supervisor while nine candidates of color who scored the same on the civil service exam did not initially receive promotions. Some minority applicants were later promoted.

In the letter Monday, Davis said 42 percent of his command staff members are people of color, the “most diverse in BPD history.”

He said that more than 44 percent of uniformed officers are people of color and that the department’s “extensive recruitment” efforts in minority communities have paid dividends, with more than half of the approximately 2,500 people who took the police entrance exam in June being minorities.

Ellison, however, said in a phone interview Monday that the statistics in Davis’s letter are deceptive, and that he has not done enough to promote minorities to leadership positions.

He also rejected a call in an editorial that appeared in the Bay State Banner, which Davis cited in his letter, for his group to work on “training its members to perform better on all the qualifying [civil service] tests” for promotion.

Ellison said MAMLEO has been offering such training for years, adding: “We’re not asking for an easier test. What we’re looking for is a test that is fair to everyone and that is job-related. Stop testing about useless, foolish [issues]. I don’t need to know what somebody’s theory is in a Kansas City study. I live in Boston.”

He also questioned Davis’s use of a Banner opinion piece and accused the black-owned newspaper of being “in the mayor’s pocket” after receiving a city-issued loan in 2009.

Melvin B. Miller, publisher and editor of the Banner, called Ellison “a fraud” after being informed of his comments.

He said Ellison, in stating that MAMLEO has offered training for promotional exams, is essentially “saying that black police officers, despite training programs, lack the confidence even then to do well. Or, are the training programs effective?”

Davis reiterated in his letter that the city has set aside $2.2 million to revamp the civil service exam to make it more equitable and that an improved test is to be rolled out next year.

Ellison said Monday that the contractor working with the city on the test changes does not have “a very good track record” of success.

Rick Jacobs, chief executive of Pennsylvania-based EB Jacobs LLC, the company working with the city, could not be reached for comment Monday.

The company says on its website that it has obtained more than 150 contracts with police agencies and is “fully versed” in federal antidiscrimination laws.

Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino, said Monday that Davis has the mayor’s full support.

“He has made community policing, and all of the efforts that go along with that, a priority, “ Joyce said.

Michael Curry, president of the Boston chapter of the NAACP, declined Monday to weigh in on the tactics of Ellison’s group.

He did say, however, that Davis “hasn’t been aggressive enough in trying to achieve greater diversity within the Boston Police Department.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.
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