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Detectives vote no confidence in DA

Union leadership reacts to Boston jurisdiction issue

The leadership of the Boston police detectives union is ratcheting up pressure on Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, passing a vote of "no confidence" yesterday in his leadership and pledging to picket his public events. The union's president called for Conley to resign.

The union's reaction is the latest fallout over Conley's controversial decision to transfer jurisdiction over homicides on MBTA property from Boston police to State Police investigators. Conley has also reasserted jurisdiction over areas such as Carson Beach, Deer Island, and Castle Island, which city and state officials have disputed in the past.

"He has compromised homicide investigations in the city," said Jack Parlon, president of the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society, adding that the move has threatened the working relationship between the city's detectives and the prosecutor's office. "For him to ruin that relationship is unconscionable, and he should resign."

Parlon said the no-confidence vote of the union's 35-member executive board occurred in a unanimous show of hands. The union represents the city's 340 detectives.

Through a spokesman, Conley stood by the decision and rejected the suggestion that the conflict had hurt the relationship between prosecutors and city detectives. Jake Wark, Conley's spokesman, pointed to two first-degree murder convictions the district attorney's office won this week in cases that had been investigated by Boston police.

Reiterating Conley's position that the move was intended to relieve the city's overtaxed detectives, Wark pointed to an article by Parlon in the union's Aug. 16 newsletter in which Parlon complained about the detectives' "insurmountable workload."

"It seems a bit disingenuous to declare 'no confidence' in the district attorney for attempting to ease the workload of Boston detectives when the union's own newsletter decries the insurmountable workload they face," Wark said.

Parlon said the no-confidence vote was triggered in part by Conley's decision to meet with the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association while not responding to Parlon's request for a meeting.

"They don't do the homicide investigations; we do," Parlon said.

Wark said Conley's meeting with the patrolmen's union dealt only tangentially with the dispute over investigating MBTA homicides. He said he does not believe that Conley has directly received a call from Parlon requesting a meeting. Wark acknowledged he had received a call from Parlon.

Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis has urged Conley to reconsider the jurisdictional change, saying it could lead to confusion over who is responsible for investigating certain crimes and would not put a dent in the detectives' heavy workload.

Boston police have investigated six killings on MBTA buses or property since 2000, solving all but one, which occurred in March.

"Today's development certainly underscores the importance and the need for the district attorney to reconsider his new jurisdictional directive," said Elaine Driscoll, Davis's spokeswoman.

She said Davis has acknowledged that the department needs more detectives, she said, and efforts are underway to hire more. More than 500 applicants are expected to take a detective exam tomorrow, Driscoll said.

"We're going to get new detectives out on the street as quickly as possible," she said.

Conley has not responded to a letter from Davis outlining the Police Department's objection to the new policy, both Driscoll and Wark said.

In the letter, Davis suggested that, in the case of a homicide that occurs on a street with an MBTA track, there could be confusion over whether Boston or State Police should lead the investigation.

The public feud between Davis and Conley began in July when Davis replaced the head of the police homicide unit without consulting Conley.

Wark said the debate would be handled privately between Davis and Conley. He would not comment on whether Conley would consider revisiting the policy.

Parlon said detectives will begin picketing Conley as early as Monday. "It's essential the people of Boston understand what's going on here," Parlon said. "He's lost touch with the detectives, and he's lost touch with the community. He should resign. That's the best thing he can do."

John Drake can be reached at jdrake@globe.com.

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