THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Officers who lie will face dismissal

One union calls change just a publicity stunt

By John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / January 21, 2010

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Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis will fire any officer convicted of perjury or shown to have lied during internal department investigations, a move one union leader dismissed as a public relations stunt, saying Davis already has that power.

Davis said in a telephone interview yesterday that recent events have threatened the department’s credibility and that he has become increasingly concerned about integrity issues, especially after an internal investigation into steroid use led to disciplinary action last year against 11 officers for a variety of violations.

“Officers told Internal Affairs one thing and told [a federal] grand jury the truth,’’ Davis said, referring to a case that sent some officers to federal prison for drug trafficking. “They clearly put more stock in the grand jury process than the Internal Affairs process. We really can’t have that happening. There has to be serious ramifications.’’

Davis said he believes the public will support his stance. “I am not going to consider intermediary measures,’’ Davis said. “I am not going to consider any other progressive discipline. I am, in fact, going to go right to the most serious discipline we can mete out: termination. Our ability to be effective witnesses in court is at stake.’’

But Detective Miller Thomas, president of the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society, said in a telephone interview that the department has long had a rule that allows for progressive discipline against officers who lie or commit perjury. The progressive discipline is made up of a variety of sanctions, including dismissal.

That rule is sufficient to address Davis’s concerns about integrity, Thomas said, labeling the commissioner’s decision to issue a new rule as a public relations gimmick.

“It’s not new,’’ Thomas said. “He is doing it for publicity, so, fine, go ahead.’’

While Davis suggested the policy gives him the right to fire an officer outright, Thomas said his union was consulted about the new rule and demanded the inclusion of language that will protect the due process rights of police officers.

“It’s like a house,’’ Miller said. “If your house is falling apart and you don’t maintain it, then you have a problem. But you certainly don’t tear the whole house down because your roof looks crappy. You repair the roof. . . . I don’t see this department as being broken.’’

Captain Francis Armstrong, president of the Boston Police Superior Officers Federation, said the department has an existing rule on integrity.

“This is more of a variation on a theme than a new theme,’’ he said of the new rule. “Most people would not disagree with the application of his rule in cases of perjury. But I would not want to see it used in cases of officers being mistaken rather than lying.’’

Davis said the rule is aimed at officers who undermine the department and law enforcement when they perjure themselves or are not truthful.

“We are not going to use this in a dog-ate-the-homework situation,’’ Davis said. “What we are talking about here is material facts in an investigation.’’

In July, the Globe reported that 11 Boston police officers had been disciplined for their roles in a steroid scandal that humiliated the department, forced officials to tighten their drug policies, and resulted in prison time for four patrolmen.

Seven of the disciplined officers admitted to using steroids at some point in their careers. Their punishments ranged from a written reprimand to a 45-day suspension without pay.

The punishments resulted from a three-year investigation into steroid use at the department that began in August 2006, soon after the FBI arrested Officer Roberto “Kiko’’ Pulido for trying to traffic cocaine. The FBI found that Pulido was a steroid user who guarded parties at an after-hours club in Hyde Park, where prostitutes and dancers mingled with police and where alcohol and drugs were available.

After the federal probe began, Davis said, the department trained supervisors to spot signs of substance abuse, especially steroids, and instituted courses to teach officers the health risks of using anabolic steroids.

John Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com.