By Peter Gelzinis January 30, 2001 Tuesday All Editions Copyright 2001 Boston Herald Inc. The Boston Herald January 30, 2001 Tuesday All Editions
(BOSTON) -- Six years ago, the Boston Police Department experienced its very own Rodney King moment. But in this case, the victim on the receiving end of the mag lights and black shoes was a detective named Michael Cox.
The patrol supervisor on duty at Area C-11 in Dorchester that infamous January night, when the heated pursuit for a possible cop-shooter raced through his district, was then Sgt. Daniel Dovidio.
We may never truly know how much of the beating Cox suffered, or the damage done to his brain, could have been averted had the supervisor from C-11 arrived on scene earlier.
What we do know is that the aftermath of what Boston police Commissioner Paul Evans described as a "cowardly and criminal" act might have been vastly different had Sgt. Dovidio pushed for the truth, instead of allowing his men to be creative in writing their reports.
In his role as supervisor, Daniel Dovidio would nominate Officers James Burgio and David Williams for department commendations for their actions that ugly night. Almost five years later, Dovidio's classmate at the police academy, Paul Evans, would fire Burgio, Williams and Ian Daley for their alleged roles in beating Cox.
Six years after Michael Cox was left in a pool of his own blood in a Mattapan cul-de-sac, almost two years after the city of Boston paid him $ 1 million to end a federal lawsuit . . . and four years after Officer Ken Conley was found guilty of lying to a federal grand jury about what he insists he never saw as he chased a murder suspect over a fence . . . Daniel Dovidio will end his police career with a 45-day suspension.
"I think it's a bit too little and way too late," Ken Conley said yesterday. It was Conley who raced across the city to answer the first call for an officer shot. It was Conley who apprehended suspect Roger Brown.
And though the same civil jury that found Burgio, Williams and Daley liable for beating Cox cleared Conley of any involvement, it was Conley who became the Boston Police Department's chief scapegoat in this mess. Robert Dwan, Conley's partner that night, was slapped with a suspension that lasted 15 months. After passing two lie detector tests and having six scheduled hearings cancelled, Dwan was allowed to return to work. Without an apology, an explanation, or even a trace of paperwork.
As for Dovidio, the patrol supervisor who allowed Burgio and Williams to alter their reports - who claimed he never saw Michael Cox's blood smeared across the trunk of a Boston police cruiser - in the months following the beating would be promoted to sergeant detective and transferred, ironically, into the anti-corruption unit.
"The rules say you are not supposed to say you were driving a car when you weren't" one police source said. "To the general public, allowing cops to lie about which cars they were riding in might seem like small potatoes.
"But the significance of this lie," he added, "is that it set the tone for all the lies that followed. When guys know that the boss is willing to wink at things, with the idea that all this bleep shall pass, it makes it easy to play coverup."
"Bottom line," Ken Conley said, "is that no one took responsibility for that crime scene. The patrol supervisor from B-3 tried to say he caught the guy that I cuffed. Everybody knows that's a lie. The anti-gang supervisor (from Cox's unit) never really did what he was supposed to do. Lotta people lied that night. Believe me, Dovidio wasn't the only supervisor to neglect his duty."
They say when fish goes bad, it rots from the head down. Would the scandal and tragedy of what happened to Michael Cox carry the stench it does if police supervisors had chosen to act like leaders rather than cowards?
It is curious that after Daniel Dovidio completes his 45-day suspension, he is expected to retire. "Strange indeed," one cop veteran said. "I'm sure he could've put in his papers and slipped out the door last year. But this way, he gets to pick up another year's vacation and sick time. So he really doesn't lose a cent for 45 days off.
"It almost looks like Danny's doing a favor for his old classmate. This way, the commish gets to say he disciplined a superior officer."