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Why Boston's mayor and its police commissioner are at loggerheads

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If Mayor Raymond L. Flynn had his way, Boston would have a new police commissioner. But Joseph M. Jordan, who has held the post since November 1976, is not about to step down - and the law, so far, is on his side.

Eventually, the Police Department reins will be passed to someone of the mayor's liking, but Flynn may have to wait for 31/2 years, when Commissioner Jordan's current term runs out.

Jordan may be an able commissioner, dedicated to excellence in law enforcement, but his effectiveness may be weakened because he lacks the confidence of Boston's elected chief executive.

Unless he wins Flynn over - something that seems increasingly unlikely - Jordan can expect to become an unwelcome member of the administration and may encounter mounting pressure to get out.

The commissioner is determined to keep his $60,000-a-year job, but he can take little comfort from the fact that few people have publicly rallied to his support. In addition, opposition appears to be growing in Police Department ranks. Jordan loyalists notwithstanding, the two groups with the lion's share of agency employees - the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association and the Police Superior Officers' Federation - have denounced his leadship in the past several months.

Finally, a coalition of black community leaders from Roxbury, Dorchester, and the South End have been angered by the way the department handled charges of police brutality. Last December, the coalition called for Jordan's resignation.

The job of police commissioner should not be a popularity contest. At the very least, however, support of the mayor seems essential - no matter how competent and well-intentioned the chief might be. Having a holdover from a previous city administration, especially an administration that had different priorities and approaches, appears to make little sense.


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