The arrest of three Boston police officers accused of protecting truckloads of cocaine, stealing the identities of drivers, and guarding a backroom bordello in Hyde Park sparked shock and dismay on city streets yesterday, where residents said the allegations would further erode trust in the police.
But Mayor Thomas M. Menino sought to downplay potential damage to the police force, which is wrestling with a rise in violence and has been without a permanent commissioner since Kathleen M. O'Toole left the post July 1. Menino noted that the Police Department's Internal Affairs Division had helped crack the alleged criminal network.
``This is a bump in the road," Menino said in a telephone interview. ``These three individuals are not going to ruin the work of thousands of officers in our city."
That was not the attitude in Jamaica Plain, where Officers Roberto Pulido , the alleged ringleader, and Nelson Carrasquillo , his alleged underling, had patrolled.
``Not good, not good at all for the young kids," said Jose Tejada , 53, who has lived in Jamaica Plain for 28 years. ``This really sends the wrong message, and for the kids around here, they'll probably see this as another reason not to trust police, whether they're Latino or not."
Jessica Benjamin , 16, who was leaving her job at a shoe store in Dudley Square, said the image of the police seemed to have hit a new low.
``I never trusted them, and this shows they're just like regular people," she said. ``Behind closed doors, some of them do the same things as the people they arrest."
The arrests last week of Pulido, Carrasquillo, and a third officer, Carlos Pizarro, followed a 2 1/2-year undercover investigation by the FBI.
Authorities say the trio were involved in a range of crimes, most of them masterminded by Pulido, 41, a 10-year veteran of the police force.
Over the last five years, prosecutors say, Pulido helped guard an illegal after-hours club atop an auto body shop in Hyde Park, where uniformed officers partied with drug dealers and prostitutes. He was paid $600 a night, and prosecutors say he gave some of that money to superior officers.
He also allegedly framed a former business partner by planting a gun and heroin in the man's car. And he is accused of running the license plate numbers of drivers through his police computer, and selling the data to identify thieves. On Thursday, Pulido, Carrasquillo, and Pizarro were arrested in Miami, where prosecutors say the officers had gone to meet drug dealers and collect the last $35,000 of a $50,000 payment for guarding 100 kilograms of cocaine.
After the arrests, Boston police and the FBI vowed to continue the investigation. Pulido, whose cellphone conversations were recorded by investigators, ``unwittingly provided extensive information about the illegal conduct of other Boston officers, other public officials, and private citizens," FBI Special Agent Michael J. Kreizenbeck wrote in an affidavit filed in US District Court in Boston.
``There's really nothing that compares to this, and I go back to the '50s with the police," former Boston mayor Raymond L. Flynn said yesterday. ``I think you really need an independent group of people who aren't going to come out to try and tear down the police department or scapegoat officers, but who will look into this. This goes right to the integrity of the police and the city."
Flynn said he was troubled that other officers who had allegedly attended the parties, or who may have known about them, had not alerted the appropriate authorities.
``This is something that is very deliberate, is very organized, and it appears that it was allowed to go on with a lot of people knowing about it," Flynn said. ``Either they didn't do anything about it or they chose not to do anything about it."
City Councilor John M. Tobin Jr. said the arrests make it increasingly important for political leaders to remind residents that the vast majority of officers are honest.
``It's the responsibility of people like myself to look people in the eye and say, `Hey, we're talking about three individuals out of a pretty sizable department, and let's keep that in mind,' " Tobin said.
Menino echoed that sentiment.
``I give credit to the Boston Police Department and the US attorney's office for working together," Menino said. ``We rooted out the bad guys. . . . These three individuals do not personify the Boston Police Department."
But Christa Gumbs , 42, a nurse at Boston Medical Center, said she was worried that the arrests would fray trust in police, particularly among teenagers
``The teenagers, they don't really trust the police officers now," said Gumbs, who was walking to the Dudley Square MBTA station.
``How could you blame someone for not wanting to take out their identification card, thinking the police might try to steal their identity?"
``This is all about corruption," Gumbs added. ``Maybe this doesn't stop with three cops; maybe there are other supervisors who were involved."
Shopping on Washington Street with her 4-year-old great-grandson, Tyree , Alice Williams said, ``It's terrible, just terrible what those officers did. How can children look at police as role models now?"
Michael Levenson can be reached at email@example.com.