Privacy SOS

Former Boston top cop Ed Davis to work as analyst for local CBS television

Ed Davis. Photo credit: Michael Cummo.

Retired Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis has a new gig: CBS’ local television affiliate has hired the former top cop as a "security analyst". In his new role, the station says, Davis will provide commentary on high profile prosecutions, criminal justice issues, "homeland security as well as domestic and international terror threats…[and] security around Boston’s big events like the Boston Marathon."

Davis’ appointment is the latest in a wave of media hires of military, intelligence, and law enforcement officials as news analysts. These former government officials are almost always selected by media organizations to provide commentary or what they call "reporting" on the very people (and agencies) they formerly worked with: other soldiers, cops, and/or spies. Probably the most famous recent example of this troubling trend was police officer turned FBI agent turned "journalist" John Miller’s return to law enforcement in December 2013. In a textbook case of the "revolving door" shuffle, Miller last year left a senior correspondent gig at CBS to work for the NYPD under commissioner Bill Bratton.

After the Boston marathon attack in April 2013, then-commissioner Ed Davis told the press that the city could expect enhanced surveillance in advance of the 2014 race. He specifically mentioned that people should prepare for drone surveillance, as well as increased video monitoring. When you see Mr. Davis on television opining about the surveillance apparatus in the city, and preparations for events like the marathon, remember that.

It's hard to believe that a lifelong law enforcement official would ever say anything to upset his former colleagues, but there's a chance Ed Davis won't just parrot police talking points in his new CBS position. After all, he once told congress that, while police need to protect the public from crimes and terrorism, "[t]his need…must be balanced against the protection of our Constitutional liberties."

"I do not endorse actions that move Boston and our nation into a police state mentality, with surveillance cameras attached to every light pole in the city," he said. "We do not, and cannot live in a protective enclosure because of the actions of extremists who seek to disrupt our way of life."

I couldn't agree more. Let's hope Ed Davis brings that mentality—and less of the drone stuff—with him into the newsroom.

UPDATE: The Boston Globe reports that Davis has also been hired to serve on the board of directors of a surveillance start-up called Mark43. The firm builds social media analysis tools for law enforcement. According to the Globe, Davis is also considering working as an independent security consultant. Doesn't this work conflict with his position as "security analyst" at CBS? Highly controversial issues related to pre-crime intelligence and the deployment of data-heavy analytics in policing are going to be in the news for years to come. Does CBS think it's legitimate to ask Mr. Davis, who works for an organization that profits off of this policing model, to comment on the pros and cons of using predictive analytics? Methinks there is too much overlap here, and it smells bad.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.