Conley Unhinged

When I learned that Commissioner Ed Davis had removed Dan Coleman as the head of the BPD homicide unit, I knew that some folks at the District Attorney's office would be miffed. It's no secret that Coleman is a big favorite of Dave Meier, who heads the DA's homicide group, and that the office had lobbied hard to get Katherine O'Toole to put Coleman in charge.

But I wouldn't have guessed that Dan Conley would go running to the Globe to denounce Davis for the move, implying that the commissioner A) wants to raise arrest rates at the cost of thorough investigation, and B) has no spine to stand up to political pressure.

Nor would I have guessed that Davis would respond, on the record, by calling Conley "ridiculous."

And for Conley to suggest that he might remove the BPD from all homicide investigations, which Globe writer Matt Viser seems to indicate, is almost a little unhinged -- unless Conley knows something awfully dire about Coleman's replacement, Thomas Lee, that I'm not aware of.

Meanwhile, the real story of the shakeup is the end of the Dunford/Joyce fault line in the department, at long last, which should go a long way toward turning the department into something resembling a functioning agency. I don't dislike Paul Joyce, and think he has done a lot of good in the department over the years, but his leadership of the investigative services over the past six years or so has been an unmitigated disaster; Exhibit 1 being the Unsolved Shootings Project established in 2002.

As for Coleman, I have to admit that I may be biased about him: he was the lead detective on a case that I spent three years reporting on, writing in 2005 that the bungled investigation put a likely innocent man in prison for life. So it's been a hard sell to convince me that he has really dramatically improved the quality of the homicide investigations since he became the unit's chief. In any event, the abymal homicide clearance rate has gone on far too long for nobody to have lost their job over it, a point that I made a year and a half ago in a ranting end-of-year essay that I think still bears reading.

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