One day early in 1994, Chelsea Police Chief Ed Flynn, lanky, bespectacled, exuberant, opinionated, was holding forth at a luncheonette across the street from police headquarters. Flynn, on the job less than a year, had been talking for hours about the joys and potential of community policing, about how his troops would make the city so safe that the "For Sale" signs would disappear, and then, while dining on scrod, he transitioned somehow into the Balkans. The man Governor Mitt Romney has picked to run the executive office of public safety has mastered the technique of discussing ship, shoes, sealing wax, cabbages, kings, and then some.
Flynn decentralizes. He recruits and promotes minorities. He tries to practice the theory that agencies should communicate with one another, something that he saw succeed and fail when he directed responses to the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Flynn has multiple college degree book smarts and a cop's street smarts. "I think he's one of the brightest minds in law enforcement by far," says Chelsea Police Captain Keith Houghton, who worked as a sergeant under Flynn. "He professionalized our police department with equipment, manpower, salary increases, community policing. He's ahead of the curve always, the ultimate professional, a cop's cop. He's a Jersey City guy, not just an intellect. He knows what's going on on the street."