Outcry Against Police Union Leader’s Bigotry Makes for Unlikely Alliance of Cops, Occupiers

Boston police(Photo: euze)For the uninitiated, it is almost too fantastic to believe. A police department’s union, supremely tone-deaf in a city with a discriminatory history, puts out a newsletter that open-heartedly embraces racism, sexism and homophobia – the very things of which police departments constantly deny accusations of being guilty. At the same time, that publication takes huge sponsor dollars for “police children’s” scholarships that barely if at all exist, and is helmed by a man who, when confronted about his publication’s ills, dives into absurdity and uses words and phrases like “scurrilous” and “the fickle finger of racism.” The union paper also rails against union wages for fellow workers when it’s not busy flirting with birtherism. Occupiers and police share in the ire. This is the Pax Centurion saga.

The publication in question is the official paper of the Boston Policeman’s Patrolman’s Union and is helmed by James Carnell, a Boston Police Department (BPD) veteran and Bitch Magazine-decreed “Douchebag,” whose career is littered with casual invective toward any group that, presumably, does not already include Carnell. Terming Saudi Arabian students “pieces of human garbage” and floating conspiracy theories about the secret networks that “illegal aliens and welfare-cheats” use to bleed taxpayers are, basically, just a day in the life.

Along with a special place in the hearts of 1970s white supremacists, the paper counts for itself a history of opposition from minority groups both affiliated with the force and not. Said local activist Jamahrl Crawford in the Boston Phoenix, “It’s the Boston Police Department’s dirty little secret.”

Willie Bradley, retired BPD deputy superintendent and former president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers (MAMLEO), noted that for the entirety of his 22-year career, Pax has “contaminated the minds of young officers.” The poisonous combination of discrimination and insufferable arrogance that infects so many police owes its vitriol, as much as anywhere else, to the Carnells of the world.

In the past month and a half, broader attention has finally been brought to the publication thanks to Clean Up BPPA, a group of activists connected principally by their involvement with Occupy Boston (OB) that has contacted sponsors, journalists and police to raise awareness about Pax. Though some the winter issues targeted OB activists, organizer Robin Jacks said in an interview that this was not their primary motivation. “Getting dissed for being a tofu eating hippie is no big deal. But once you see [for example] necrophilia jokes about Egyptian women, that crosses the line.”

The Boston Police Department Has an Incredibly Fucked Up Newsletter

The first major press came from a well-named Gawker piece, “The Boston Police Department Union Has An Incredibly Fucked Up Newsletter.” In addition to the aforementioned Egyptian necrophilia joke (which came complete with a “wash my dishes, woman” punchline), the piece – which only dealt with a single issue of Pax – also highlighted Carnell’s suggestion that Democratic “candidate for squaw I mean senator” Elizabeth Warren bake her communist supporters a cake and shares his hypothesis that activists stuck around OB because of the promiscuity of its young, stupid female members.

Clean Up BPPA began contacting advertisers, and soon, LoJack Corp. and Boston-based Simmons College had dropped out, the first of what would soon become many blows to Carnell and Pax. Police Commissioner Ed Davis in a tweet called the publication’s conduct “juvenile,” “wrong,” and “not rep[resentative] of today’s officer.”

Presumably not content with oppressing marginalized groups and assaulting good taste, Pax Centurion also dabbles in financial fraud! The Boston Phoenix damningly noted that despite the fact that the paper maintains that all of its net advertising revenues go to equal opportunity scholarships and other charities:

“In 2009-2010 … the BPPA only gave away $44,000 in scholarships ($1000 to 44 recipients) despite selling $336,494 in advertising. That was an improvement from the year before, when they raised more than $400,000 in ad revenue and reported no scholarships expenditures at all. The BPPA did, however, spend more than $100,000 on golf outings and retirement parties between 2008-2010. In that time they also spent more than $500,000 on ‘advertising sales’ … to Commonwealth Production.”

Ironically, Commonwealth Production, which worked on 77% commission in 2010, and last year was dissolved for failing to file tax returns, was led by a woman who – wait for it – was convicted in 1993 of impersonating a police officer to scam businesses. It’s downright Wall Street-ian.

More unbelievable still is Carnell’s response to his critics. To the MAMLEO accusations of racism, he contends that the racial divide is actually in “the fertile imaginations of the real racists.” To an offer of forgiveness from the mother of a 16-year-old beaten by police, on camera, he responded, “on behalf of the police officers involved in the incident … no forgiveness or apologies are needed or accepted.” In the present case, ever since penning an initial letter from the police union (the same letter in which aforementioned nonexistent scholarships are touted), Carnell has been defiant and borderline absurd in rejecting the attacks against his paper.

Chris Faraone of the Boston Phoenix, who has been instrumental in breaking the story (and thoughtfully archiving Pax’s recently deleted content), have received much of the unintentional comedy, and the most recent Carnell missive doubles down on the delusion.

“Reporter Chris Faraone, along with his consorts in the ‘Occupy Boston’ movement, have attempted to destroy a conservative publication by attacking our contributors and advertisers,” Carnell blathers, calling his detractors “on-line thugs and assorted losers without lives.” He adds that advertisers must choose between big-spending police officer families and, “a few cyber-bullies out there who purchase an occasional can of cat food, tofu or brown rice with their EBT card.”

Accusations of racism, sexism and homophobia? “Baseless, false and scurrilous.” These words are really just “terms used by the radical left as a cudgel to cow anyone with a different opinion into submission,” Carnell explains, shortly before comparing himself to people burned at the stake during the Salem witch trials and awarding the Phoenix “a trophy for high hypocrisy.” As of press time, ten sponsors, including Stop & Shop, Harpoon Beer and People’s United Bank, have pulled their ads from Pax Centurion.

The efforts opposing the publication found a home at a Sunday, August 5 MAMLEO-hosted town hall meeting on Pax and discrimination that was streamed live and broadcast on Boston radio. For two hours at Bruce Wall’s Global Ministries Christian Church, speakers including Bradley, Allison Nevitt from Clean Up BPPA, and other community advocates described in blistering detail the racist, sexist policies of the BPD, the city of Boston and Pax Centurion. Incredibly, OB was present in the audience at the invitation of MAMLEO, maybe the most notable instance of an Occupy/police alliance in the history of the movement.

“It was great for MAMLEO and occupiers to have some time and space to talk,” said Jacks of the meeting and Mayor Menino – whose noncommittal denunciations have satisfied neither MAMLEO nor Clean Up BPPA – joined Carnell as a common enemy for the two. Said Bradley of the mayor’s scathing, recent opposition to Chick-fil-A’s presence in his town, “Before you call the kettle black, take a look at your own organization. Take a look at the fact that in your organization you have not had a man of color in your cabinet for the whole 19 years that you’ve been mayor of the city of Boston … Look at the fact that you have never had a person of color run the police department in your city, [and] you refuse to hire a person of color to run your police department.”

He added of Pax’s editor, “this guy is a member of a Boston police agency and he’s a police officer 24 hours a day, but he’s allowed to spew such hatred with impunity. We are not going away on this issue.” Jacks also left the meeting resolute. “Personally, I have a lot of hope for the city of Boston,” she said, and plans to continue fighting.

With advertisers dropping like flies and Boston rallying against it, it seems only a matter of time until Pax gets the axe. While schadenfreude may not always be healthy, any feelings of sympathy for Carnell’s self-immolative, self-inflicted PR nightmare should be tempered with the remembrance of just the man he is. Along with his many ills, Carnell once told the mother of a teenager slain by police, “your son was a maggot and a scumbag.”

No justice, no pax.