Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Cocaine and guns don't mix - not even for cops.

Cocaine and guns don't mix - not even for cops.
by Kevin John Sowyrda

If dozens of Bostonians who were licensed to carry firearms were discovered to be cocaine ridden, this Second Amendment advocate would be the first to advocate the suspension of their firearms licenses as regulated under Mass. General Laws. However, if you work for the City of Boston and wear a blue uniform, being high on cocaine in no way means that the Gaston Glock handgun in your holster will be taken away.

That's nothing less than deplorable public policy, worthy only of a banana republic regime.

As first reported by the Boston Globe's Suzanne Smalley on July 30, 75 city cops have failed their mandatory drug tests since testing began in 1999, with results showing that a good time was had by all, including one officer who tested positive for heroin. But the drug of choice was evidently cocaine - with some ecstasy for good measure - and the decision of the present administration was, in accordance with the police contract, to give everybody a second chance.

You see, unlike you and I, and unlike police officers in New York City for example, Boston police officers have a highly unique contractual immunity; a right to be coked up at least once. And one need not be Angela Lansbury to figure out this mystery. A member of the constabulary testing positive for cocaine once, is probably using the substance on a more than casual basis. Cocaine is not equivalent to that occasional glass of splendid Chablis.

Mayor Menino will tell you his hands are tied. The contract, enforceable in a court of law, says that Boston police can test positive for drugs at least once without termination, and technically that is indeed correct.

I say shred the contract, burn it before every television camera in town at City Hall Plaza during a major press event, and slug it out in court while the nation watches - and the nation would indeed watch and debate.

Any responsible chief executive officer who signed a contract allowing multitudes of drug addicted police officers to continue on the job, heavily armed, has more explaining to do - in my book anyway - than does Matt Amorello right about now, the ousted big dig chief whose looking better by the day in comparison to the stories coming out of city hall, the other mess in town second only in size-of-mess to the Big Dig.

This question is hereby put to every Bostonian - would you have signed a contract that allows any police officer to put his gun back in his belt, and get behind the wheel of a police cruiser, with all the powers incumbent a peace officer under state statutes, after testing positive for cocaine or heroine or ecstasy? If we consider the question with sober consciences and not political minds, we come to the inevitable answer that all is not well at Schroeder Plaza.

The fact that Menino has so clearly failed the city in his fiduciary responsibilities via negotiating the public workers' contracts is a sad story so old, so long and so sordid that I'd need all the ink in town to compose it. Therefore, suffice it to say the time has come to simply move beyond the mayor's inability to negotiate and insist that he restore at least some semblance of integrity to our public safety department - which has exhibited all the competence these past many months of the Boulder City Police Department.

Moving forward means exactly that. Mayor Menino should immediately order Acting Police Commissioner Albert Goslin to dismiss all officers on the force today who have failed any drug testing yesterday. Though the union would immediately huff and puff and proceed to court seeking an injunction, temporarily those officers would be off the job and an absolutely vital, spiritual message would be sent - that being, Boston has a zero tolerance policy for police corruption.

Beyond that imperative message, the mayor should retain a team of competent attorneys (I assure you he'll have to look well beyond city hall to find them) and slug this one out before the judge. A paragraph in a contract does not make an action right, and a judge ruling that a public employees union is not entitled to a protection they otherwise felt entitled to would hardly be an unprecedented ruling in America, where contracts get struck down in court every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

I'm not naive and I know the mayor and his inner circle of sycophants will not subscribe or surrender to the aforementioned points of advice and admonishment. However, for the sake of a hurting city - and his own legacy - Mayor Menino should listen to this message.

The past few months have shown us a city mayor more interested in behaving like a heftier, blue suited Queen Elizabeth than the can do mayor we once perceived His Honor to be. Mayoral events have become purely ceremonial with ridiculous trappings. We observe the usual confusing speeches which are no more decipherable than rap music; and the occasional missives from city hall appear to be falling on the deaf ears of a citizenry increasingly yearning for some leadership from that obtuse bunker at Downtown Boston.

The mayor cannot afford to be the Queen. Her Majesty's forebears may have once ruled here but I think we won that war. We deserve a proactive, Democratic leader whose not afraid to say the following, "This is wrong, this contract is wrong, I was wrong to ever sign it, and we are proceeding to court - and we are not going to let cops who have been proven to be serious drug users to wear the badge."

Unfortunately, the mayor doesn't have the will of spirit to do the right thing in this matter. His lack of vision, his evaporating energy and his inability to comprehend the many crises consuming this great city like fire have painted him as a political King Lear, handicapped by serious events as much as by his own strange, persona. He's simply counting the days to January 2011, when he takes his generous retirement to Boca Raton and hands the seals of office to his unwitting successor.

Regular Bostonians are also counting the days.

Kevin John Sowyrda is a political writer and commentator.

No comments: