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THE FENCE by Dick Lehr

THE FENCE

A Police Cover-up Along Boston’s Racial Divide

By Dick Lehr

Pub Date: July 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-078098-2
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

From former Boston Globe reporter Lehr (Journalism/Boston Univ.; co-author: Judgment Ridge: The Truth Story Behind the Dartmouth Murders, 2003, etc.), a somber tale of police corruption, racism and violent crime in Beantown.

Think Serpico translated to Boston, where Mike Cox, a plainclothes police officer, and his partner were tracking criminals. One, the story’s antihero, was a street thug known as “Smut,” a 23-year-old with a lengthy police record. Their paths intersected with violent results at a hip-hop club on a January night in 1995. As Lehr notes, “plainclothes” isn’t exactly right, for “it was unrealistic to think street-smart gang members would not spot them or their unmarked car.” The gangbangers did better than certain of Cox’s fellow officers in the Boston PD, who beat him senseless, apparently confusing him for a suspect. The cops, and others who arrived on the scene, concocted a tale: Cox “hit his head on the ice,” they said, and they coached witnesses to say the same. None of the officers stepped up to tell the truth, erecting the well-known “blue wall of silence” that surrounds allegations of corruption and misconduct. Higher-ups in the BPD took a nonchalant approach to the case, “hoping the department’s low-key response to the beating would result in a quick and quiet resolution that kept the matter largely in-house.” To his great credit, Cox would not let it go. Having “realized long ago he could not depend on the police department for the truth,” he embarked on a long legal odyssey for justice that resulted in victory—at least of a kind.

A cautionary tale about the abuse of power and a timely civics lesson on the virtue of standing up to authority.