Like virtually all big-city police departments, the BPD has an image problem that never seems to go away. And this year is already looking pretty ugly.
Take Officer Henderson Parker, the 18-year veteran who was charged with rape in January; he'd previously served a 30-day suspension back in 2002 after a domestic spat "that resulted in injuries," according to police records obtained by the Boston Globe.
Parker was also on the scene in 2008 when the arrest of Emmanuel College student David Woodman spiraled out of control. On the night the Celtics won the NBA championship, Woodman had been partying on the street near Fenway Park, when he and some friends, some of whom were drinking in public, clashed with police. After being tackled by officers, Woodman — who had a heart condition — stopped breathing for several minutes, suffering brain damage from the oxygen deprivation. He died in the hospital 11 days later.
Although Woodman's family won a $3 million settlement in their lawsuit against the city, none of the officers involved were disciplined for the incident. In fact, one of them, Officer Michael McManus, wound up with a medal pinned to his chest.
According to the Woodman family, a private investigation found that McManus was the first officer to make physical contact with the Woodman during that fatal Fenway encounter. Still, McManus kept his job.
Two years later he made headlines again — this time, for a viral video showing him and at least five other officers pummeling a minor on the campus of Roxbury Community College. And once again, McManus was cleared.
You'd think that the BPD would want to sideline an officer with such a dicey record. Nope. According to a BPD memo leaked to the Blackstonian newspaper, last month McManus was awarded the Mayor's Medal of Excellence for assisting more than 250 arrests, and for his "continued dedication to duty and professionalism."
At times, this kind of decision makes you wonder whether the BPD is saving its best awards for officers who've been involved in the death of civilians.
That was the case this year, when the BPD announced the presentation of the Schroeder Brothers Memorial Medal — according to a BPD memo, "the highest medal given . . . in recognition of bravery" — to the cops who fatally shot Mark Fernandes McMullen a year and a half ago.
All we know of that incident comes from the police: On September 7, 2011, the BPD says, two plainclothes officers approached McMullen's Hyundai Sonata near the intersection of Blue Hill Avenue and Woodcliff Street. McMullen "suddenly put the car in reverse," the police said, dragging a woman who was climbing out of the passenger seat for several feet. The plainsclothes officers drew their guns. McMullen fled in his Sontata.
The BPD's report goes on to recount a 17-mile, high-speed chase down I-93 and then onto Route 3, where Boston and state police tried to barricade McMullen's car on the Rockland exit ramp. "The suspect vehicle then rammed" the cruisers, the police report says. "In fear of their lives," two officers —Christopher R. Carr and Kenneth R. Autio — drew their guns and killed McMullen. For their actions, Carr and Autio were awarded the Schroeder medal.