Minority civic leaders, clergy, and lawmakers are pushing for the MBTA to make the agency’s interim Transit Police chief permanent, pointing to a lack of diversity on the force and a need for the department to be more reflective of the communities it serves.
Acting Chief Kenneth Green, who is black, has held the top post since longtime Transit Police veteran Paul MacMillan retired from the position a year ago. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is expected to name its new Transit Police chief soon.
“It would be in the interest of the Commonwealth and its diverse citizenry to have Kenny leading [the department],” said NAACP Boston branch president Michael Curry. “He’s not new to being a police officer or new to that agency. He’s very accessible and visible to community folks. We want that kind of leadership at the helm.”
The city’s black clergy issued a letter to Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack on Tuesday expressing support for Green, 56, calling him a “strong, dependable leader who takes community policing seriously.”
“You really want someone who has that community sensitivity and can drive that to the patrolmen’s level,” said the Rev. Jeffrey Brown, associate pastor at the Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury, who along with five other clergy members issued the letter to Pollack. “He’s the number one choice for me.”
An initial search for a department leader fell flat earlier this year after Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan backed out, citing personal reasons, officials said.
The MBTA began accepting applications again in May and 69 applied for the job, which pays up to $192,904 annually.
“With assistance from the International Association of Chiefs of Police the MBTA cast a wide net for candidates who met or exceeded the required qualifications and experience necessary for the job,” said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo in an e-mail.
The association was paid $33,000 for its help that included recruitment and screening of candidates, Pesaturo said.
The pool of candidates was narrowed to six and officials with knowledge of the process say one of them is former Boston police superintendent-in-chief Daniel Linskey, who along with Green is among the front-runners. Those officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.
MBTA officials declined to disclose who the candidates are.
The force, which includes 277 sworn officers, is mostly white — nearly 74 percent. Almost 10 percent are black, 8 percent are Hispanic, and 8 percent are Asian.
“We’re not lacking white chiefs. We’re lacking people of color and women,” said Larry Ellison, president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers. “It would be a travesty if Chief Green is not allowed to continue doing the fine job that he’s doing at the T.”
MBTA officials declined to say how many of the candidates are minorities.
The T has struggled with a long history of discrimination against women and minorities. The MBTA operated under an equal opportunity agreement that allowed the state attorney general to monitor hiring, promotions, and discipline from 1997 to 2005.
“The added bonus is that [Green] is an African-American man and he has the skill set,” said state Senator Linda Dorcena Forry. “If they look at his record and look at his resume they’ll see what he has been able to do.”
With police-community relations strained nationwide following the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of officers — some civic leaders and legislators say Green, a qualified minority leader, should be seriously considered.
A 24-year veteran on the T force, Green, who is from Lynn, previously worked for the Winchester Police Department, where he served as a patrol officer and made his way through the ranks. Green was not available for comment.
Linskey, 49, who is white, was a 28-year veteran of the Boston Police Department and served as second in command under former Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis. Linskey declined to comment.
He retired from the Police Department last year and now runs a security consulting company.
Linskey worked for Boston police during high-profile incidents including Occupy Boston, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, and a deadly confrontation in Watertown with the Tsarnaev brothers.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, who grew up with Linskey in Hyde Park, said he saw Linskey in action in the days after the bombings.
“It was a real clear day of leadership. He was taking charge, deploying officers, securing the crime scene, he kept his composure,” Conley said. “People think highly of him.”
MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola will decide who will become the department’s next chief, said Pesaturo, who added that he will not comment prior to selecting a chief.
Elizabeth Guyton, a spokeswoman for Governor Charlie Baker, said the governor expects the MBTA will select the best person for the job.