Related topics

Panel Recommends Sweeping Changes in Boston Police Department

January 15, 1992

BOSTON (AP) _ A panel appointed by the mayor on Tuesday recommended replacing the city’s police commissioner to help repair the reputation of a department battered by police misconduct and botched investigations.

The panel, headed by prominent lawyer James St. Clair, said the department is rife with mismanagement and has repeatedly failed to police itself.

Mayor Raymond Flynn, who requested the study last year, received the recommendations hours before delivering his annual State of the City address.

Flynn, a lifelong friend of Police Commissioner Francis M. Roache, said he accepted responsibility for the police department and expected to implement ″a number of the reform proposals,″ but wouldn’t say which ones.

Roache has acknowledged needing help running the department, and he and Flynn have discussed naming a No. 2 executive to manage daily affairs.

But St. Clair, who was a special counsel to President Nixon during the Watergate scandal, said the department needs someone new at the top. ″To try to pass the responsibility off to someone else won’t do the trick,″ he said.

The panel said a new commissioner should be appointed when Roache’s term expires in April.

Roache agreed that changes need to be made, but rejected the idea that he should be replaced. ″I have full confidence in my ability to lead the great Boston Police Department,″ he said.

In the past few years, the department has been criticized for shoddy police work and inflaming racial tensions - especially in the October 1989 murder of Carol Stuart.

Minority leaders claimed police were too quick to accept a phony story from Stuart’s husband, Charles Stuart, that a black mugger attacked the white couple. The ensuing search for a suspect angered minority residents who said they were intimidated by police.

Leaks from the police department widely identified a black man, William Bennett, as the prime suspect. But just days after Charles Stuart picked Bennett out in a lineup, investigators learned Stuart had fooled them and that he had plotted the murder. Stuart then apparently committed suicide.

Other examples included:

- A drug bust that went awry in 1988 ended with the fatal shooting of an officer and disclosures that police used fake informants to get search warrants.

- The indictment last year of a police officer with a history of violent behavior in the shooting death of an unarmed teen-ager.

The panel said the department’s internal affairs division has done a poor job of investigating citizen complaints of misconduct. It recommended creating an appeals board - including civilians - that would hear cases of people dissatisfied with the internal review process.

Flynn said when he named Roache to the job in 1984, he wasn’t particularly looking for management skills.

″Mickey Roache and I don’t do very well in the area of management,″ Flynn said. But he added: ″I give Mickey Roache an A-plus in the area of integrity and in the area of bringing people together in the city of Boston racially.″

Louis Elisa, president of the Boston chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, agreed that the city needs a new police commissioner and disputed Flynn’s assessment of Roache.

″I’d say the mayor would never be able to teach in any school because he wouldn’t know how to grade a paper,″ Elisa said.

Donald Murray, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, said Roache has done a good job, and said he disagreed with the idea of creating the community appeals board.

″I don’t think the officer on the street should be walking around wondering whether he’s going to be reviewed,″ Murray said.

Update hourly