From a Case of Mistaken Identity Rises a Ruthless Chief
In January 1995, Michael Cox was an up-and-coming Boston Police officer in the anti-gang violence unit. One night, while on-duty as a plain-clothes officer in pursuit of murder suspect Robert “Smut” Brown, he was mistaken for a gang member by a group of his colleagues who happened to be tailing the same suspect. Cox was preparing to scale a chain-link fence in pursuit of his suspect when he was suddenly pulled to the ground and beaten by this group of officers. The officers soon realized their mistake, and rather than calling for emergency medical services, they left Cox bleeding and helpless and kept their mouths shut.
Due to the severity of his injuries, Cox was out of work for six months and despite many internal investigations, none of the offending officers were identified, and no one came forward to take responsibility. In his bestselling book, The Fence, former Boston Globe reporter Dick Lehr describes the Boston Police Department’s handling of the incident as “the blue wall of silence.” Cox eventually sued the department and was able to prove the involvement of a certain number of officers.
Michael Cox during his time with the Boston Police Department (left). Image Source
The Fence by Dick Lehr, which described the incident of Cox’s beating by fellow officers, and the path toward justice (right). Image Source
The tragedy of the 1995 incident did not keep Cox from continuing his career in law enforcement. He served with the Boston Police Department (BPD) for over 20 years and rose through the ranks to become deputy superintendent of the BPD in 2013, and then advanced to superintendent in 2019—the second highest ranking officer in the department. As superintendent, he served as leader of the Bureau of Professional Development and the Police Academy.
Chief Michael Cox today in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Image Source
In September 2019, Cox moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he was sworn in as the new chief of police for the Ann Arbor Police Department. A major goal of his appointment in Ann Arbor is to bring successful community policing strategies to the city—something other police chiefs there have tried without success. Chief Cox believes that community policing starts with better communication, both internally and with the public. He has also worked to reinvigorate Ann Arbor’s citizen crime-watch groups, an effort to keep the members of the community involved in keeping their neighborhoods safer. Partnerships between the Ann Arbor Police Department and the City Council are also an integral part of Chief Cox’s strategy. And while the position of chief at the Ann Arbor Police Department has historically been a revolving door, Cox hopes to stay for the rest of his law enforcement career.
In a more lighthearted story, Chief Michael Cox’s legacy does not only lie in the field of law enforcement: his son, Michael Cox Jr., is a running back for the New York Giants!
Black Trailblazers in Blue is created in partnership between the National Law Enforcement Museum and the National Black Police Association to celebrate the triumphs of African American leaders in Law Enforcement.