Copyright © 1999 by the Boston Phoenix, Inc. All rights reserved.

This Just In: Media

What's black and white and blue all over?

By Dan Kennedy

A white police officer hangs a noose over a black lieutenant's motorcycle, a gesture the lieutenant decries as racist. Cops are discovered to be living in the suburbs, in defiance of a controversial city-residency requirement. A Cape Verdean priest is roughed up during the course of an arrest that his supporters charge was racially motivated. An officer is discovered sleeping in his cruiser while he's supposed to be working a detail on the Big Dig.

It's been a rough few months for the Boston Police Department, more accustomed in recent years to accepting praise for working with community activists and reducing crime than to dodging brickbats. And the rank-and-file are furious with their tormentors in the media.

They say you shouldn't pick a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel. The cops, though, have their own barrel: Pax Centurion, a bimonthly newspaper published by the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association. In the current issue, they may not quite manage to get even, but they do get damn mad.

Take, for instance, this column by BPPA president Thomas Nee, in which he praises Mayor Tom Menino and Police Commissioner Paul Evans for not enforcing the residency requirement. Nee uses the occasion to blast Boston Herald reporter Maggie Mulvihill -- who recently exposed the residency violations -- for "slamming, slanting, and assassinating the character of one of our patrol officers with nearly a week's worth of yellow journalism," an apparent reference to the white officer fingered in the noose incident. At least it looks like Nee is whacking Mulvihill -- he writes only of "this particular journalist, who I will not give credit by reporting her name."

Another union officer/journalist, Bob Boyle, takes to task Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson for a tough piece Jackson wrote on the handling of Filipe Texeira, the Cape Verdean priest. Boyle complained that Jackson omitted the incident that led to Texeira's arrest -- he allegedly drove his car up onto a sidewalk, then repeatedly refused to produce his driver's license. Boyle accused Jackson of "yellow journalism" (apparently a favorite phrase at Pax Centurion), adding, "There is a blatant attempt by several irresponsible journalists in the City of Boston who incite, provoke and create a climate of racial tension where there is none."

Taking the screw-'em-all approach, finally, is Kevin Doogan, who begins his piece with, "The news media in this City just can't get enough cop bashing stories to fill their papers." He proceeds to deride the media's "unbridled hatred and disrespect for police officers in general," and to characterize the city's newspapers as "police bashing rags." Doogan also singles out Mulvihill, Herald reporter Steve Marantz, and Boston Tab reporter Linda Rosencrance, suggesting, "Why don't the three of you grab some crayons and scribble some more rubbish."