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Nearly half given constable badge in Boston have been arrested

When Randolph Police pulled over Byrain Winbush on March 25, 2003, they found he was driving an unregistered, uninsured car, and had a warrant outstanding for his arrest. But Winbush was no ordinary traffic scofflaw.

''He identified himself as a Boston police officer,'' Patrolman Jason Fisher wrote in his report, ''and presented the ID of a Boston constable. He also had a duty belt with handcuffs, Mace and a 9mm handgun.'' Winbush, who is not a police officer, had his weapons confiscated and he was placed under arrest.

The warrant was for Winbush's failure to pay a court fine for an earlier motor vehicle infraction. And five months after Fisher stopped him, another warrant was issued for Winbush's arrest - for failure to pay the $100 fine that resulted from the March 25 traffic stop.

None of which seemed to matter when Constable Winbush came up for reappointment by Mayor Thomas M. Menino in 2004. Initially, the Police Department recommended he lose the license, but reversed itself 11 days later.

It was a decision that kept Winbush, who is 36, in good company.

Among the city's constables, who carry badges and have arrest powers, are many who had their first law enforcement experience when someone with a badge arrested them.

The Boston Police Department, which vets those who want such positions, told the Globe that 88 of the city's 186 constables have criminal arrest records of one kind or another, and that seven were appointed despite criminal convictions.

Police officials insisted the vast bulk of the arrests were for minor infractions. But the list of violations the department turned over in response to a public records request shows otherwise. Some of the arrests were for felonies, including assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and indecent assault and battery on a child. Several constables also have records of arrest for domestic violence charges, and others have been charged with forgery, firearms violations, armed assault, and illegal drug possession.

Police had agreed to release a complete list of dispositions of the arrest cases, but later reneged. The department's chief legal counsel, Amy Ambarik, conceded that not all the cases resulted in clear acquittals. Some resulted in findings of wrongdoing that fall somewhere between a guilty finding and a dismissal or acquittal.

The city's constables have had their problems on the non-criminal side of the law, as well:

  • At least 10 Boston constables might consider delivering court papers on foot: Their driver's licenses or registrations have been suspended or will be at renewal time because they have not paid their Boston automobile excise taxes, in some cases for several years.

  • About one in four Boston constables, whose work often involves tracking down debtors, have been sued for bad debts, chased for non-payment of federal taxes, let out-of-state court fines go unpaid, or been delinquent on federal taxes. A dozen or more have - or had - liens on their homes for non-payment of Boston real estate taxes.

As for Winbush, he has a 2003 court judgment against him for not paying for constable gear he bought from a police supply outlet.

When asked why police allowed the Winbush reappointment, after having had second thoughts about it, Sergeant Raymond Mosher, who oversees the vetting process, said it was because Winbush had ''corrected'' a ''paperwork issue.''

When the Globe then inquired about his arrest record, Ambarik said that privacy laws prohibited the department from discussing the issue. She also refused to say whether Winbush still has a license to carry a handgun, because those records are also private.

Reached by phone, the constable hung up immediately after a reporter identified himself.

Constables, Mosher said, ''are appointed by the mayor to represent the mayor, and we would only want their best behavior.''

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