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February 5, 2010     Post-Gazette
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POST-GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 5, 2010 Page 5 BOOK REVIEW THE FENCE A Police Cover-Up Along Boston's Racial Divide by Dick Lehr Hard Cover This exciting incredulous true story will grab you by the throat and will not let you go easily. There are times while you are reading this sad tale that you may wish you had never started to read this unbelievable story of police brutality and justice gone awry. Nonetheless, once you have begun reading you know you must see it through, knowing full well the story will never leave you. A leading protagonist of this story is Mike Cox a black man whose boy hood home was in Roxbury. He was con- sidered to be a quiet and capable athlete ultimately developing into an impres- sive good-sized man. Mike was well liked, and bright, someone who had distin- guished himself as the class flirt. Mike attended schools that were mainly white. "In many ways, he was color- blind. It was the way he was brought up, he said." The next leading protagonist was South Boston's Kenny Conley a good sized white man who, like Mike, planned to become a Boston policeman. Lehr describes Conley, as fol- lows: "a hardworking unpre- tentious kid without a shred of guile." Mike's home was a mere 3.8 miles from where Conley lived. Although rela- tively close-".., the two neigh- borhoods were a world apart." Southie was overwhelm- ingly white and Irish." It was the 70s when both Cox and Conley were attending high school-it was a confronta- tional time when blacks and whites were exploring their differences. It was a difficult time for both parents and stu- dents. Lehr explains, "it was an unusually bitter and vio- lent period that stereotyped the neighborhood forever in the minds of people and throughout the nation as a place where beer-bellied men and foul-mouthed woman made war on defenseless black children." Mike Cox began his long sought career as a Boston police officer on Feb. 27, 1989. Kenny Conley's dream also came true as he became a Boston police officer on December 5, 1987. It seemed apparent that both men had the making of being good police officers. Faith however played a powerful role in their lives. It was the 1990s, the Bos- ton Police Department was being corrupted by fabricated sources to secure court- approved warrants, followed by many months of black's civil rights violation. It was during these tragic conse- quences that both Mike and Kenny, as neophyte police 383 Pages * Published by Harper Collins The Fence author Dick Lehr officers, were trying to find their footing. Lehr explains what the "blue wall" meant, that de- spite, "a plethora of evidence that these officers lived by a code which they will not testify against another of- ricer." I suspect in the midst of all this obvious corruption there are many innocent law abiding police officers who tread the line hardly ever receiving acclimation for their efforts. There are times while you are reading this sad tale that you may wish you had never started to read this unbelievable story of police brutality and justice gone awry. One of the local boys, Lyle Jackson was shot at a local hangout. What followed was a high powered chase that ended at "THE FENCE," This was the infamous location that all the local hoods and others would race to when in trouble and slip through a hole in the chain-link fence, to avoid the pursuing police. Every cop within radio range frenetically raced toward the described scene to get in- volved in the action, The scene increased in intensity because the second 911 call mistakenly noted a police- man was down. Reading this exciting, explosive car chase that included more than twenty plummeting cruisers made me wonder was this conglomerate necessary? Once Cox reached the fence and was contemplating his next move he was hit from behind by a devastating blow. Cox turned and was struck once again. "His head ex- ploded, and he could not see." He saw a puzzling image. "It was a cop, a white cop." Blows to his head and boots to his face rained on him. He was taken to the Boston City Hos- pital where his extensive and severe injuries were being examined and repaired. "... a Boston police officer's expec- tation for justice was about to collide with the police cul- ture of silence." It appears that egos plus placing blame on culprit of- ficers for Mike's injuries, was to be decided by the pow- ers to be, it was more conve- nient to note that Mike's in- juries were caused when Mike had slipped on the ice. This foible was declared to protect one another rather than admit that fellow offic- ers had beaten Mike, a col- ored officer. Mike's condition proved beyond any doubt that he had been hit by a "blunt object." "No amount of wish- ful thinking or deceitful thinking could turn an ice patch into the culprit." Upon the insistence of his family Mike finally hires an attor- ney, Stephen Roach. Mike was disoriented and dizzy. In five months he had visited thirty doctors. During the lengthy investigation the so-called "Blue wall of silence" was prevalent and durable. Bob Peabody, the assistant district attorney was heading the criminal investigation. After a year of investigation he states emphatically, "that he was spinning his wheels." Fi- nally, Mike Cox undaunted, frustrated, and confused, "... sued his fel- low cops, his police depart- ment, and his city. He said his civil rights were Violated when Boston police officers, repeat- edly beat and kicked him until he blacked out ..." This was a daring move on the part of Mike. Kenny Conley was caught in a trap. He testified con- tinually that although he was near the fallen Cox he did not see him. Hardly anyone believed him. Psychiatrists believed Conley was suffering from what they called "tun- nel vision". Nonetheless, Conley was convicted of perjury. Reporters were told by Conley, "that I had noth- ing to do with it and ff I could have helped him I would have." "They'd become the odd couple. One from Roxbury, the other from Southie." Author Lehr avers correctly that the disparity between these two cops was less about them and more about their neighborhoods. Understandably, police commissioner Evans had difficulty explaining the plac- ing of three involved police officers, Burglo, Williams, and Daley just before Mike's trial on administrative leave. This questionable decision was made nearly four years after Cox's beating. The trial begins and Steve Roach, Cox's attorney faces the jury tells them in posi- tive workmanlike fashion that on January 25, 1995 of- ricer Williams hit Mike from behind, officer Burgio kicked him in the face, and Daley got in some licks as well. When the trio walked away from the beaten Cox, the ex- treme cover up began. The (Continued on Page 12) BARBARA WALTERS at Kowloon Restaurant for SI ;OTT BROWN'S Citizens' Thank You Tour (Photo by Lisa Cappuccio) Barbara Waiters, on the beat for a story with Scott Brown, came all the way to the Kowloon Restaurant in Saugus, on January 30, 2010 for the interview. It was wild excitement as media from around the nation filled the Kowloon Restaurant for the Scott Brown's Citizens' Thank You Tour. Thousands of people attended the free event at the North Shore landmark restaurant owned by the Wong Family. Along with media maven Walters, CNN's Cambell Brown was in the house. Comedian Steve Sweeney and 96.9 FM's talker Michele McPhee opened the show for Massachusetts' Senator Scott Brown. The scheduled Kowloon stop, part of a state wide thank you tour, started at lpm. Brown signed autographs, posed for photos, and squeezed palms with everyone. Bistro * Beer * Wine