Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis will not be in the department’s command center watching over the World Series victory parade Saturday.
As ecstatic Red Sox faithful line up on Boylston Street, Davis will instead be at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, judging college students in a public safety “hackathon.”
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Davis said Thursday in a conference room at Boston Police headquarters. Nearby, his office was crammed with white moving boxes. Only his coffee mug, a few pens, and pictures of his family remained to be packed.
On Friday, Davis, 57, is leaving the department after seven years as commissioner. On the eve of his last day, he was neither wistful nor worried about departing just before a parade expected to draw tens of thousands to the city — and to the same spot where two bombs killed three people and injured more than 260 in April.
“I’ve done everything I can do,” Davis said. “I know there is a great team here and they’ll be just fine without me.”
During a 35-minute interview, Davis was reflective, if somewhat tired from a cold and, of course, from working until 2 a.m. the night before, supervising the police response to boisterous celebrations after the Red Sox World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I still love this job,” he said. “I envy my successor.”
‘I know there is a great team here and they’ll be just fine without me.’
Superintendent in Chief Daniel Linskey, the department’s second in command, will be in charge of security in Saturday’s parade. The mayor has not named an interim commissioner.
Davis was sworn in at the end of 2006, as the department was reeling from a steroid scandal and high murder rate. He leaves the city with a 30 percent decrease in violent crime and a department that he believes has begun to gain trust in neighborhoods where police had been regarded with suspicion.
After the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, and the days that followed, culminating in the death of one suspect and the capture of another, Davis was praised nationally for his leadership and his calm, reassuring presence.
But during the preliminary mayoral race, many candidates who had previously gushed over Davis scaled back their support as the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers criticized recent promotions that overlooked black and Latino officers. The group vowed to “vigorously oppose” any candidate who would keep Davis as commissioner.
At the same time, the relationship between Davis and Mayor Thomas M. Menino became strained, according to several people close to the men.
They said Menino was frustrated that Davis had been traveling, lecturing at colleges and conventions instead of attending community meetings. Others at City Hall and in the department said the strain was a result of the positive press Davis received nationally after the Marathon.
But Davis called any talk of tension “poppycock.”
“The mayor and I talk to each other every single day,” he said. “We are dealing with the most complex, difficult issues that can be thrown at anyone at society. They’re sometimes life-and-death issues. . . . Sometimes there is a lot of passion in those conversations, but there has never been a bad word and I consider the mayor a friend.”
Dot Joyce, Menino’s spokeswoman, said the mayor has been Davis’s “biggest champion.”
“There is no one in this city who is more proud of the work he has done, not just on the big events but in the neighborhoods,” Joyce said.
Joyce said Menino plans to announce an acting commissioner soon but was not specific.
Menino’s departure was one of the biggest factors in his decision to leave, Davis said. Menino announced in March that he would not seek a sixth term. “I realize that a new mayor usually looks for a new person, and I just thought it was good to allow that to happen,” he said.
Asked if he would have stayed if the two final mayoral candidates, Councilor at Large John R. Connolly and state Representative Martin J. Walsh, had asked him to, Davis said: “I wouldn’t speculate on that. I don’t know.”
Davis said he is not embittered by criticism of his administration during the mayoral campaign.
“Politics are politics, and I don’t really care about them, to be quite honest,” he said.
He does plan to vote on Tuesday, though he declined to say for whom.
Reflecting on his tenure, Davis expressed only one regret, the death of Emmanuel College student David Woodman, who became unconscious then lapsed into a coma in 2008 after struggling with police following the Celtics championship win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The officers were cleared by Suffolk prosecutors of any wrongdoing, but the city paid Woodman’s family $3 million and the Police Department changed its policies about how to handle arrests during large demonstrations.
“You always regret when someone dies, especially if they’ve been in your custody,” Davis said. “I think the officers were acting totally within the policies and procedures that we set out. It was only after the incident . . . that we determined there were other ways to deal with it.”
In his nearly seven years on the job, there was only one goal he failed to accomplish, he said, firmly establishing jurisdiction at the Seaport, where for years state and city police have wrangled over who should respond to calls in the burgeoning neighborhood of restaurants and clubs. Currently, the area is in the jurisdiction of the State Police.
“I still think that is a huge problem,” Davis said. “I don't think it will be worked out until there is a tragedy out there.”
Davis’s next steps take him far from law enforcement: He has accepted a fellowship at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and will consult for a Boston nonprofit that helps former offenders readjust to life outside prison walls. Still, Davis envisions returning to police work in a couple of years. “I’ve probably got another police department in me,” Davis said.
His immediate plans include a vacation uninterrupted by calls from work about a crisis.
“I haven’t made any plans yet,” he said. “But it will be some place that has a beach.”