Some of ``Boston's finest'' may not have been all that fine. That is hinted anew with the seizure of certain police department records by a federal task force investigating alleged corruption in the city's 2,000-member law-enforcement agency.
A federal grand jury in Boston has been looking into corruption charges. Documents seized include police payroll records and city licensing records. It's the third time in less than a year that allegations of shakedowns or payoffs involving members of the city's police force have surfaced.
While the scope of the probe is uncertain, it reportedly involves incidents of wrongdoing in connection with the licensing of nightclubs and liquor establishments dating back as much as a decade.
The investigation, which could be the most far reaching of its kind in New England, is one of the largest in any major American city, sources close to the scene say. It involves the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Organized Crime Strike Force of the US Department of Justice, and other agencies.
Police Commissioner Francis M. (Mickey) Roache and Mayor Raymond L. Flynn are said to be cooperating fully. The alleged wrongdoing predates their terms of office.
Charges of police impropriety in overlooking loan sharking and gaming were raised during the recent eight-month federal court racketeering trial of Gennaro Angiulo, an organized-crime kingpin in New England.
More recently a Boston police detective, in an unrelated incident, was found guilty of lying to a grand jury in connection with payments from a Roxbury convenience-store owner for overlooking under-the-counter sales of illegal drugs.
The latter, now serving time for selling marijuana over the counter, testified at the detective's trial that he had paid bribes to more than 50 city police officers. One of those named, although not directly, was former Police Commissioner Joseph M. Jordan.
Mr. Jordan, who retired 21 months ago after nine years as commissioner and 38 years on the force, has denied the accusation.
Regardless of its outcome, the latest investigation of police corruption, like those of the recent past, has cast another shadow over the Boston police force in general, and perhaps indirectly on the quality of its law enforcement.
Naturally, some police officers are better than others. But their performance tends to be obscured by colleagues whose questionable demeanor tends to discredit the badge they wear and undermine public confidence in police in general.
Clearly, the current federal investigation of possible past wrongdoing by certain officers might have gained much less attention had it not been in Boston, a city that over the years has had to deal with scandals involving various agencies.
During the past four years, under recently departed United States Attorney William Weld, a lengthening parade of those who worked in city government during the administration of former Mayor Kevin H. White have been investigated, indicted, and prosecuted for various types of misconduct, including shakedowns and perjury.
Similarly pursued with some success were some political operatives and others with ties to the White administration.
None of the probes, however, have touched the former mayor, who retired in January 1983 after four 4-year terms and is now an urban-affairs professor at Boston University.
Former Commissioner Jordan was Mr. White's hand-picked choice to head the Boston Police Department. The replacement of Mr. Jordan was a major goal of Mayor Flynn when he entered office, but it took more than a year to persuade Jordan to step down.
Commissioner Roache, a longtime Flynn friend who had worked his way up through the police ranks, has substantially reorganized the departmental chain of command. The shake-up has included the placement of more patrols on the street, especially in high-crime areas, and morale within the city's police ranks has generally improved.
Although the names of those being probed have not been disclosed, it is expected that most of those involved in the latest investigation are no longer on the force or have long since been reassigned to other duties.
Besides an undetermined number of police officers, the federal inquiry is understood to involve the city agencies that oversee the licensing of liquor and live-entertainment establishments.
The investigation and its fruits could give increased impetus to moves to merge all municipal licensing operations into a single city department with clearly defined responsibilities.