BOSTON POLICE Commissioner Edward Davis sent a weak message on police misconduct last week -- all the more so because it was timed to generate minimal publicity. The disciplining of officers in a steroid-use scandal deserves greater scrutiny, especially given the city's recurring problems with rogue officers.Going forward, officers who used drugs and lied to anti-corruption investigators are worthless to the department: Even if they continue to perform police work, they can never be called to testify in court because they'd be easily discredited. If they'd lie to official investigators, who doesn't believe they'd lie to a jury?
Davis parceled out punishments ranging from written reprimands to a 45-day unpaid suspension to 11 officers who were involved in steroid use or had frequented an afterhours club in Hyde Park where drugs, alcohol, and prostitutes were present. The punishments are a byproduct of a federal investigation in 2006 that culminated in the arrest and lengthy imprisonment of three former Boston Police officers for protecting a large shipment of cocaine arranged by federal agents posing as drug dealers. The head of that protection racket, former officer Roberto Pulido, was a steroid user who also guarded parties at the after-hours club frequented by police.
Davis acknowledges that termination, not suspensions, would have been a more "appropriate punishment" for some of the officers who not only used illegal drugs but also lied about such use to the department's anti-corruption investigators. But like his predecessors, Davis says he is handcuffed by an aggressive union, contractual language that metes out light punishment for first-time drug violations, and labor arbitrators who overturn long suspensions and terminations.
Cops deserve due process rights just like everybody else, but the public also needs to be protected from corrupt law enforcement. When a department determines officers lied to investigators and participated in illegal drug markets, it's a grave disservice to the public to keep them on the force just because management fears the union's political clout.