Former Boston Police Deputy Superintendent Bob Hayden has long advocated for changes in academy training that would go further toward heading off misdeeds. “Traditionally,” Hayden says, “police departments do not train their people about the temptations…. People are going to try to give them alcohol, money, drugs. There are some women who are cop groupies, who will be attracted to them because of the badge. But they don’t talk about that in the academy.
“Add that to the stress of police work, the highs and the lows of adrenaline rushes and long, dull shifts,” he says, “and you have an atmosphere that makes young cops ripe to be corrupted, ready to be corrupted. By not preparing them in the academy, we almost create the situation where corruption can fester.”
Furthermore, some critics say cadets aren’t trained to recognize wavering in their peers. “The police culture builds up in the academy,” says Mancini. “You stick together. You don’t go outside the group. It takes a lot of guts to step forward and report corruption after that is drummed into your head.”
Back in 2001, Commissioner Paul Evans walked into the District E-13 station house in Jamaica Plain for roll call and presented three awards for exemplary conduct. All three went to the same cop. According to one of the citations, which commended the officer for chasing down and apprehending a robber on Tremont Street, his actions were “indicative of the outstanding professionalism he displays no matter where or when called upon to perform his oath of office.” That officer was Roberto Pulido.
Pulido, of course, would later become notorious for allegedly running a series of criminal enterprises that included selling steroids, protecting drug dealers, stealing motorists’ identities, and helping manage the Boom-Boom Room in the illegal nightclub not far from the mayor’s Hyde Park home. That all this culminated in the biggest BPD scandal in memory is well known. But now even an incident for which Pulido was lauded is getting another look.
On March 7, 2002, Pulido was on Grotto Glen Road in Jamaica Plain when, he said, he spotted a guy suspiciously eyeing a yellow Mitsubishi near the James Hennigan School. Pulido would report that he followed the man and got into a scuffle with him. Shots were fired. One missed, but two caught the officer in the torso, flattening against the bulletproof vest he had elected to wear that night (unlike in other major cities, Boston cops don’t have to wear such protection, per their union contract). Pulido was rushed to Brigham and Women’s, where the vigil that accompanies every shooting of a cop began. Mayor Menino showed up grim-faced, as did Commissioner Evans, who dubbed Pulido an “outstanding” officer.
Back at the crime scene, however, at least one of Pulido’s fellow officers was puzzled. The circumstances of the shooting were murky. Pulido said he grappled with the assailant, but that the guy wriggled free and got away. Pulido never returned fire. Despite the close combat, the cop apparently couldn’t offer much of a description beyond that of a 5-foot-9 black man in dark clothing. “Right away, it was weird,” said a veteran BPD investigator who responded to the scene. “No one had a description of the perp. Pulido’s story didn’t make sense. Everyone was looking at each other like, ‘Who are we looking for?’ But who is going to dispute a cop’s story after he just got shot?”
The answer was: no one. Because far more than just being great fodder for reporters, in many ways Pulido is a near-perfect product of the kind of disease that has marred the BPD for years. There was the “blue wall of silence” that prevented the investigators from sharing any suspicions with the brass. There was the fact that early on in his law enforcement career, Pulido failed a test for cocaine, which earned him a 45-day suspension and a stint in a department-mandated drug treatment program, but didn’t result in his termination. (Other departments take a zero-tolerance approach to drug crimes, but until very recently, again per the union contract, Boston cops could fail a test and only be subject to three years of random drug testing, all without losing their jobs.) Finally, the Pulido scandal underscored the need for the reforms proposed by Bob Hayden, in which cadets would be taught to expect and resist the temptations of the job—the trifecta of money, drugs, and women that ultimately brought down the officer.
Davis concedes that wiping out corruption altogether is near impossible, but says he’s making progress. In the past year, he has issued executive orders and negotiated with union officials to make it harder for cops to keep their jobs after committing crimes. Now, officers who test positive for drugs are subject to random drug testing for the rest of their career. Shortly after Ortiz’s record of six suspensions was revealed, Davis vowed to implement a “three strike” system, in which that number of disciplinary leaves automatically results in termination. After the Murphy debacle, he got the patrolmen’s union to agree, on a case-by-case basis, to let him fire officers who are charged with domestic violence—even if they are not found guilty in court—should internal affairs be able to prove the allegations to its satisfaction.
For the most part, BPD command staff and Mayor Menino are backing Davis on the housecleaning (though there’s still an element in the department resistant to the changes—some patrol cops privately call the do-gooding former Lowell cop “Opie,” as in the character from The Andy Griffith Show). It’s helped that Davis has pursued the changes with a savvy and focus that previous commissioners have lacked. He shows up at crime scenes, holds weekly command staff meetings, interacts with union officials without cajoling, and generally doesn’t grandstand, which keeps the mayor happy. The more reform-minded officers are glad to have someone finally try to tackle departmental corruption. “He took Ortiz’s badge, saying he was a disgrace to good cops,” Mancini says. “I’m glad I got to see that.” Davis, along with Superintendent-in-Chief Robert Dunford and internal affairs Superintendent Kenny Fong has adopted a phrase coined by former acting police Commissioner Al Goslin, who—during his brief stint running the department until Menino appointed Davis—initiated the investigation into the Three Amigos. Goslin would often say, “We can’t be afraid to kick the bag” (the implication being “even if there is shit in it”).
It’s a mantra that will come in handy again soon. Assistant U.S. Attorney John McNeil has issued subpoenas to up to a dozen Boston police officers to appear in front of a grand jury convened to hear evidence on steroid abuse in the BPD. According to a source, three officers, one of them a homicide detective, were transferred after receiving their subpoenas. Two BPD sources, including one with direct knowledge of the investigation, confirmed the ongoing grand jury—where what went on in Pulido’s Boom-Boom Room is also likely to be reexamined. And the fact that Pulido’s sentencing, originally slated for February, has been pushed back is causing some in the department to wonder whether he is giving up other officers in return for a reduced punishment.
Such a purge is required of any large-scale reform effort, but it puts Davis in an awkward position. On one hand, rooting out corruption is what the department badly needs; on the other, the more instances that are unearthed, the further the department will fall in the public’s regard. Balancing those two factors, while keeping morale high and the mayor satisfied, is a challenge, to say the least. Sitting in a stiff-backed wooden chair in his office at police headquarters in Roxbury, Davis leans his large frame back and takes a breath. “It’s not like I came in here as a crusader,” he says. But if he wasn’t before, he is now.