Most of Boston’s mayoral candidates are hammering away at Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis’s record for hiring and promoting minority police officers. It’s an entirely justified complaint — but aimed at the wrong target. Davis actually has a good record of promoting women and minority superintendents to his command staff when such decisions are solely under his control. The biggest barrier to diversity on the force isn’t Davis’s attitudes but the grip of the Civil Service, which currently controls both the entry exams for police officers and promotional exams for sergeants, lieutenants, and captains.
Criminologists generally agree that cities with large minority populations benefit from the presence of minority officers and supervisors. A diverse force is especially useful in intelligence gathering and community policing. In Boston, complaints are escalating about the absence of minority officers in the upper ranks. Currently, all 21 of the department’s district captains and temporary captains are white males, as are 42 of the 48 lieutenants.