Flynn, seen as one of the nation's bright young chiefs, has come to Chelsea by way of Jersey City, New Jersey, and Braintree, where he lives with his wife, son, and daughter. The trip was marked by obstacles that tend to waylay idealism. Nobody spends 23 years as a cop and rises through the ranks to chief without taking some shots to the body, heart, and ego. This is especially so if the cop in question belies the stereotype, as did Robert di Grazia, who commanded the Boston cops in the 1970s, Bill Bratton, who recently left Boston for New York City, and Flynn.
In a speech last September to the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, Flynn explained why police must change their way of doing things. He talked about himself as a young patrolman in Jersey City, a place much like Chelsea -- an old city of tribal and turf wars, a place where a cop's status depended upon whom he had supported in the mayoral race, a city that looked across a river at Manhattan, just as Chelsea sits on the waterfront in Boston's shadow. "No matter how many arrests we made," Flynn said, "crime continued to escalate. No matter how many sweeps or crackdowns we tried, neighborhoods continued to deteriorate. No matter how fast we got to the calls, no matter how many calls we answered, fights we broke up, disorderly groups we chased, tickets we wrote -- no matter what we did, things just seemed to get worse."
Now, almost a year later, [Harry Spence] and others in Chelsea seem to have no doubts. "I had wondered if Flynn was too much of the new style," Spence says. "We were bringing a lot of new style into the city. Were we overdoing it? I was convinced by people in Chelesa who said, `Harry, don't caricature Chelsea. Chelsea wants the best.' "