Ed Davis, who led the Boston Police Department during the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings and steered one of the biggest manhunts ever mounted on U.S. soil, has been selected by The Crime Report readers as our criminal justice “Person of the Year.”
Attorney General Eric Holder earned the next largest number of votes from our readers, who noted his leadership of justice reforms ranging from alternatives to incarceration and the reduction of stiff penalties for low-level federal drug offenses—and his forthright opposition to “Stand Your Ground” state legislation.
Davis, 57, was catapulted into national attention following the explosion of two pressure-cooker bombs at the marathon finish line, which left 3 persons dead and 183 injured.
Over three tense days, as police fanned out into the city to look for the culprits, Davis helped calm worried and angry Bostonians, and conducted an investigation under a national spotlight that required skillful collaboration with federal and state police agencies—establishing a model of crisis management for law enforcement across the nation.
In the process, he won the respect and admiration of his peers.
As Brian A. Keyes, chief of police in the neighboring city of Chelsea, MA wrote to TCR, “Commissioner Davis provided exemplary leadership when the City of Boston needed it most. He was the epitome of the symbolic ‘Boston Strong’ during that time, when the community needed to stand up and pull together.”
But Davis, who retired as commissioner in September after leading the 2,015-member Boston force for seven years, was more than just a crisis manager.
Arguably, his successful stick-handling of the bombing crisis owed in large part to the trust and confidence he had won from Bostonians during his tenure.
He was superintendent of the Lowell, MA police force when he was tapped for the Boston post—only the second time Boston had looked outside its ranks for its top police executive. In his first three years as commissioner, serious crime in the city was reduced by 18 per cent. Shootings dropped by 40 per cent.
Davis himself regards the crime drop, which he attributed to community policing and putting more cops on foot patrol, as one of his biggest accomplishments.
In an interview with TCR’s deputy managing editor Graham Kates, Davis said improving police relationship with the community and developing a “positive profile” should be high on the agenda of every U.S. police chief.
“Cops who are focused on prevention—talking to people in the neighborhoods—make a dramatic difference in …relatively small geographic areas that are hotbeds of crime,” he said.
Davis is now serving as a consultant to Community Resources for Justice, a Boston group that helps ex-offenders reintegrate into society—an unusual post-career choice for a nationally known police chief who could likely have his pick of high-profile law enforcement jobs or six-figure consulting deals. (He also begins a fellowship at Harvard next month.)
TCR readers also singled out two other newsmakers in the world of criminal justice who made an enormous impact during 2013.
Attorney General Eric Holder was criticized by many observers for what was considered a lackluster performance in 2012. But this year, his high-profile positions on “smart justice” reform, drug sentencing and gun control earned him the admiration of TCR readers.
A Department of Justice policy change announced in September ordering prosecutors to eliminate specific quantities of illicit substances in pending drug cases—thus avoiding the automatic trigger to mandatory minimum sentencing laws, will have a far-reaching impact on prison populations, predicted readers.
It was just one of the “very bold, unprecedented steps to correct something that’s costing taxpayers billions and is not only counter-productive, but an increasing danger to communities all over America,” wrote reader Jean Vitayuinavatti, in support of Holder.
His backing of smart on crime reforms, added reader Irvin Waller, “will reduce the number of victims, and avoid taxes and lives wasted behind bars.”
TCR columnist Matthew Mangino also praised Holder’s “strong stance against stand-your-ground laws,” noting that his leadership on the issue has added more force to criticism by civil liberties and gun control advocates of state legislative actions that “senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods.”
The former National Security Agency (NSA) employee who revealed the stunning extent of U.S. counter-intelligence surveillance came in a close third in readers’ choices for Person of the Year.
His revelations are the “gifts that keep on giving,” commented reader Joe Conger. “Just when you think the NSA has been placed on the backburner of news, another item is revealed; another leader of a foreign state begins to question U.S. diplomacy/relations.”
“Without whistle blowers, we have no way to know where the most horrific injustices may take place,” added reader Jacqueline Grace. “I want to spend my time fighting the real issues and those most in need of help. That way we don’t have a history of shame and regrets.”
TCR’s West Coast Bureau Chief Joe Domanick called Snowden’s revelations” a stunning act of personal will that put the nation and the world on notice about just how intrusive and all- encompassing NSA surveillance of ordinary Americans has become — as well as firing off a warning of what America circa ‘1984’ could become.”
To be fair, Snowden attracted nearly as much criticism from our readers as praise—including some who specifically asked us to keep him off the list.
“(Person of the Year) connotes something positive, so I sincerely hope you won’t choose a criminal like Snowden,” said one reader who asked to remain anonymous.
Added another anonymous reader: “Please do NOT continue to highlight his criminal and unpatriotic behavior. (Snowden) does not deserve any attention at all.”
Other newsmakers who picked up votes from readers in recognition of their impact during 2014 included:
Wayne LaPierre, the outspoken head of the National Rifle Association, whose sophisticated (and well-funded) lobbying operation successfully managed to head off gun control legislation at both the federal and state levels in the aftermath of the 2012 Newton, CT shootings of schoolchildren, and what had been considered the most favorable environment for such legislation in many years.
Tom Clements, the Colorado corrections chief whose cold-blooded murder by a former inmate on March 19 highlighted concerns about the parole system and vulnerability of justice officials. “Tom as the most invested, forward-thinking leader we’ve had in our DOC in years if not decades,” noted one reader anonymously. “He was a game changer in every respect.”
Some readers liked our nomination of the iconic Beat Cop, 2.0 in recognition of the technology-driven changes to modern law enforcement.
Brief mention also goes to:
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn (for reforms to the prison phone call system);
Philadelphia Police Chief Chuck Ramsey, for the ‘stellar job” one reader suggested he was doing in his city, as well as president of both Major Cities Chiefs and PERF;
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy,cited by TCR Contributing editor David Krajicek, as the “most powerful” justice; and who played a pivotal role in decisions this year on abortion, race and gay rights.
Special recognition goes to Peter Lewis, the billionaire founder of Progressive Insurance, who passed away this year. His support of the marijuana legalization movement played a huge role in the victories achieved in Colorado and Washington.
It only remains for us to add that TCR’s list of prominent newsmakers does not necessarily connote an “endorsement” of their views or actions. As a non-partisan source of news and criminal justice resources, we are committed to covering the emerging issues that dominate the complex 21st century world of criminal justice, both fairly and transparently.
We’ll continue that mission in 2014!
Happy holidays—and best wishes for a peaceful, productive year from all of our core staff and senior contributors.
Steve Handelman, Executive Editor
Cara Tabachnick, Managing Editor
Graham Kates, Deputy Managing Editor
Ted Gest, Washington Bureau Chief
Joe Domanick, West Coast Bureau Chief
Katti Gray, Contributing Editor
David Krajicek, Contributing Editor
Ricardo Martinez, Office Administrator
The TCR editorial team welcomes responses from readers.