BROCKTON — Robert E. Hayden, a popular 28-year veteran of the Boston police who has also led the Lawrence force, is now 71 and being treated for cancer.
But rather than take it easy, he is taking the reins of the Brockton Police Department, over the objections of a union for commanding officers but with the enthusiastic backing of many former colleagues in Boston, Lawrence, and the ranks of federal law enforcement. Even a longtime Boston mayor is publicly supporting him.
During a lively ceremony at City Hall here on Friday afternoon, Hayden was sworn in as interim police chief.
He took the oath after a Plymouth County judge allowed the city to appoint him for a 60-day period, rebuffing the Brockton Police Supervisors Union, which had tried to block the appointment, citing a state law that caps the age of a police chief at 65, according to officials and court records.
The next step is for the City Council to approve Hayden’s appointment as civilian police commissioner, which could take several weeks. His salary will be $149,000, according to the proposed ordinance. As a civilian employee, he would be able to stay on the job, despite being over 65, Brockton officials said.
“I need everyone’s support,” Mayor Bill Carpenter said Friday. “We need Bob Hayden to lead the Police Department.”
Hayden said after his swearing-in that he doubts the legal battle with the union will hinder his relationship with the rank and file.
“I don’t feel like an outsider,” he said, noting his service in tough areas of Boston that face similar issues as Brockton. “Because an outsider, to me, would be from Podunk, N.C.”
In brief remarks after taking the oath, Hayden laid out a three-pronged approach to fighting crime in Brockton, as a veritable Who’s Who of Boston-area police and political figures looked on.
First, Hayden said, officers will visit the city’s worst criminals “quite regularly” to let them know police have them on their radar. He also plans to launch a motorcycle unit to support patrol officers and work with social service providers to reach out to younger siblings of suspects who are arrested.
The attendees punctuated Hayden’s remarks with laughter, applause, and cheers during his speech.
Some, including former Boston mayor Raymond L. Flynn, praised his dedication to police work.
“Bobby Hayden is not a show horse; he’s a work horse,” Flynn said.
Superintendent in Chief William G. Gross of the Boston police said afterward, “He has great respect for the community, great respect for officers.”
As a Boston deputy superintendent, Hayden commanded an area from 1990 to 1994 that included East Boston, Charlestown, downtown, and the North End, according to his resume.
As Lawrence chief from 1995 to 1998, his accomplishments included building “a closer working relationship with neighborhood groups than previously existed,” his resume says.
Former Lawrence mayor Mary Claire Kennedy added her voice to the chorus of praise for Hayden at Friday’s ceremony.
“It’s a special day for your city, and I’m happy to share it with you,” Kennedy said.
Regarding Hayden’s cancer, Carpenter has said that he and Hayden discussed it before Carpenter offered him the position and that doctors have signed off on his doing the job.
Hayden said that initially, he thought Mark DeLuca, a close friend and former Boston police colleague who also served as a chief in Duxbury and Cohasset, would be in the running for the Brockton post. But DeLuca is now recuperating from a serious auto accident, and Hayden decided to step in.
“I know he’s going to get better,” Hayden said. “This is for him.”
John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report.