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The Fence: A Police Cover-up Along Boston's Racial Divide

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  165 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
A riveting, true-life account of violence, racial injustice, and betrayal within the ranks of the Boston Police Department

The Boston police officers who brutally beat Michael Cox at a deserted fence one icy night in 1995 knew right away that they had made a terrible mistake. The badge and handgun under Cox's bloodied parka proved it: He was not a black gang member but a p
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published June 23rd 2009 by Harper (first published 2009)
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Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskeyMystic River by Dennis LehaneThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodJohnny Tremain by Esther ForbesConfidential Communications by J.R. Reardon
Boston Books
87th out of 201 books — 205 voters

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Sep 06, 2010 Hilary rated it it was ok
Shelves: library-copy
I had high hopes for this one, as the story is a juicy one: perhaps the most egregious case of police brutality in Boston's history, as the victim was (gasp) one of their own, a black, plainclothes cop mistaken for a suspect, beaten to within an inch of his life, and left for dead. However, this author, Lehr - a journalist and professor at BU - is, to my disappointment, a lousy writer. His research was exhaustive, sure, but he's not very skilled at weaving it all into a readable narrative. His q ...more
Jan 29, 2012 Kurt rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: public defenders, Boston residents, anyone outmatched by a powerful institution
In this book, Lehr uses his skills as a journalist to explore the rich intricacies of a tale of police brutality and the culture of silence that tried to hide it. Lehr steps back often to describe the systemic problems of police brutality and racism in the criminal justice system, especially in the Boston area, but most of the book keeps its focus on two police officers who grew up within a few miles of each other. Michael Cox is an African-American man who gets a good education, marries a docto ...more
Feb 21, 2014 Darlene rated it did not like it
I was really looking forward to reading this book because I personally know one of the victims involved in the incident. However, I was completely and utterly bored with this story. The writer went into way too much historical detail for me. I could not wait until I was done reading it. There were far too many pages leading up to the incident and then far too few pages involving the actual incident and aftermath. Boring, boring, boring. Zzzzzzzz.
Laura Chapman
Jul 08, 2015 Laura Chapman rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was a fascinating look into police culture through the story of Mike Cox, a police officer who suffered a brutal beating following being mistaken for a suspect during a police chase in Boston in 1995. But it wasn’t the chase that was remarkable; it was the lengths to which the police force, from fellow officers to department leadership, went to cover up the beating. Dick Lehr is an award-winning journalist who followed the story for years, writing dozens of articles and compiling his r ...more
Jan 13, 2010 Jeremy rated it liked it
A police cover-up, yes. Along Boston's racial divide... well, maybe, but you wouldn't know it from this book. That isn't to say race is missing: the victim of the beating, Michael Cox, is black, and the police had been getting into trouble for other beatings of black victims. But I was really hoping Lehr would use the Michael Cox beating to explore race relations in Boston (you know, because the subtitle all but promises such an exploration) as they evolved through the 1990s and into the early 2 ...more
Aug 09, 2010 Kelley rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic look at the beating of Mike Cox while he was working as a plainclothes cop. Cox had been mistaken for a suspect prior to the beating, and knew other black cops who had as well. Not being especially race conscious, he tried to ignore the incidents. But this incident was far worse: he was beaten and then left to lay on the ground, badly wounded, while the beaters tried to ignore what had happened. The blue wall was quickly erected as all the cops on the scene went silent or lie ...more
Fred Leland
Jan 10, 2014 Fred Leland rated it really liked it
Great book about a bad scar left on police and our history. Police brutality is something that should never be tolerated as it deeply destroys trust. In this case the bad cops used their egotistical bravado led beating on not a bad guy but indeed a brother police officer on duty and I pursuit of the same subject they were. The beating is not where this story end but the conspiracy and coverup that only makes the real facts all the more egregious as corrupt cops attempt to finger at innocent cops ...more
John Pappas
Mar 03, 2012 John Pappas rated it really liked it
An intense, true-life police procedural that details the accidental beating (with excessive force) of a black plainclothes Boston police officer by his fellow officers. The resulting fall-out nearly claims the life and career of the victim and a white officer who was mistakenly assumed to know what happened that night. Taking the reader through the streets of Dorchester, South Boston and Roxbury and the hallways of the Boston Police Department Headquarters and the courthouses of Boston, Lehr sho ...more
Feb 03, 2014 Brock rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This book isn't the most well-written, certainly, but it's the kind of book everyone in urban America should read. And certainly everyone in Boston should read it. It's amazing what alarming things can happen, be covered up, and go unexamined even by those watching it all unfold.
Jan 06, 2010 Kristin rated it really liked it
this reminded me a bit of All Souls (i.e. on the street version of Boston neighborhood) and also had overlapping themes with the book I just finished Wrong Place Wrong Time (violence, racism). The author is overly sympathetic to his subjects and you're left completely in support of the 3 major characters Mike, Kenny and Smut. And fair or not, you cannot help but think differently of the BPD after reading this. At the same time, it's a completely engaging narrative and even though I lived in Bost ...more
David Buse
Mar 11, 2012 David Buse rated it liked it
Another book about the hard scrap interracial divide between Roxbury and Southie? Why not? Dick Lehr's "The Fence" is a inside look at the 1995 police coverup and code of silence involving the brutal beating of an undercover officer. The most amazing part of this story is the complete lack of an internal probe into what happened from the outset. Michael Cox is left to fend for himself and his family and the posturing of those around him only adds to his problems. Lehr does an effective job of br ...more
Aug 01, 2015 Suzanne rated it it was amazing
Very well written non-fiction about police corruption. One of the best book I have read in quite some time!
Charles Robinson
Dec 06, 2015 Charles Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites

Being former law enforcement myself, this book was really disturbing to say the least. I know this occurred in the mid and late 90's but I do question why decided to trace the harassment and phony 911 calls if the Feds were helping him with his case.
Jan 24, 2010 David rated it did not like it
A fifteen-year old incident in Boston resulted in this molehills-into-mountains screed from a reporter with a strong anti-cop bias. I should have judged this book by its cover and left it alone. Recommended for bleeding heart lefties only.
Greg Meyer
May 28, 2013 Greg Meyer rated it it was amazing
This book makes me terrified of police. It's very well written, and very well put together, but this book is horrid. How could the people of the city of Boston let them get away with this...
Jul 09, 2010 Charlotte rated it it was amazing
Like true crime? Politcal expose? Insight into race relations in the North? Cop stories? Legal stories? Stories on how messed up Boston is? This book has all that and more.
Oct 18, 2010 Krista rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book however, could have done without all the background and more of the story itself. Amazing that this crap still happens these days... Bravo Michael Cox...
Jun 09, 2015 Diane rated it really liked it
Powerful, true story about police brutality and the battle to break through the "blue wall of silence." I don't know if I'll ever look at cops the same.
James Robinson
Aug 31, 2011 James Robinson rated it really liked it
Takes its time to start up, but really gallops towards an exciting finish.
Jul 04, 2010 Carrie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Depressing, disturbing, and not at all surprising.
Maria Cheevers
May 01, 2012 Maria Cheevers rated it it was amazing
totally engrossing, fast paced, pure fun - really like it
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Dick Lehr is a professor of journalism at Boston University. From 1985 to 2003, he was a reporter at the Boston Globe, where he was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in investigative reporting and won numerous regional and national journalism awards. He served as the Globe's legal affairs reporter, magazine and feature writer, and as a longtime member of the newspaper's investigative reporting unit, the S ...more
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