America’s Most Wanted?

In the aftermath of the marathon bombings, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis became a national media celebrity. Some reports even had him being considered for secretary of homeland security. Where did these rumors come from, and what do they tell us about Davis himself?

Throughout his tenure, Davis has made himself accessible to the media, deftly using it—including this magazine—to help burnish his image. In a 2008 profile in these pages, for instance, Davis described how he tore the badge off the chest of the corrupt BPD officer José Ortiz. He recounted telling Ortiz, “You are no longer a Boston police officer. You don’t deserve to wear this.” It was a powerful image that emphasized Davis’s reputation as a take-charge commander—while simultaneously obscuring the discovery that multiple complaints about Ortiz had previously gone unheeded by the department.

The investigation into the murder of Amy Lord, who in August was abducted outside her building in South Boston, provided another example of this pattern of behavior. Lord’s alleged killer, Edwin Alemany, turned out to have allegedly assaulted another Boston woman in September 2012. That victim managed to grab Alemany’s wallet, and thus his identification, during the attack, but the investigating officer, Jerome Hall-Brewster, never made an arrest because, he claimed, he lacked probable cause. Davis demoted Hall-Brewster, placating an enraged public. Attracting less attention, though, was the fact that Hall-Brewster had been kept on the force despite 10 internal-affairs investigations.

Not long after that, South Boston residents were shocked to learn that they hadn’t been told for more than a week about the rape of a woman who’d been picked up by the driver of a gypsy cab on Northern Avenue. This time, Davis blamed the state police.“Staties botch alarm on Seaport abduction,” the Herald blared, quoting Davis complaining about how his department doesn’t have jurisdiction in the area where the victim was picked up. State Police Colonel Timothy Alben responded with a bitter post on the state police’s Facebook page that was directed primarily at the Herald, but that also implied that Davis had personally used a rape case to provoke controversy over the jurisdiction issue.

Davis, in other words, has earned a reputation as someone who will deflect blame—and even place it—when it serves him to do so. When I asked him about his DesLauriers comments before the House committee, he declined to pull the former FBI special agent in charge out from under that bus. “I testified truthfully to the question that I was asked,” he told me.


All of this is part of what makes it so difficult to imagine Ed Davis as the head of the Department of Homeland Security, whatever the Globe and CNN may have reported. For the record: He refused to tell me whether he has, in fact, been contacted by anyone connected with the White House about the DHS job. But he did dismiss my suggestion that he has been actively seeking to polish his brand for the next stage of his career. Did he have anything to do with the rumors that he’s being considered for the DHS position? “I’m not behind anything that’s been out there in the public,” he said. Is he angling for a lucrative job with a private security firm? “I have no desire to be a consultant,” he told me.

Perhaps that’s so. But with his mayor on the way out, why wouldn’t Davis be positioning himself for his next move? He wouldn’t be the only city official preparing for a post-Menino life. And he’s hardly the kind of guy who leaves his career, or image, up to chance.