The One Local Police Department Whitey Bulger Hated: the Quincy Police.

I should tell how I developed an interest in this matter from a prosecution perspective.  I joined the Norfolk DA’s office in 1976.   I had worked for the prior eight years or so in a small Boston law firm.  That firm handled all types of cases but was considered a criminal law defense firm.  Some of the clients were high level Mafia people.

I never had a personal relationship with them — that’s a group that really likes to deal with their own countrymen.   Aside from that in the Boston area, and maybe other places, there’s a rivalry among the Irish and Italians.  Sometimes it became bloody, but for the most part it was just that neither group liked or trusted the others.  It was always strange because there were lots of what were then considered “mixed marriages” between Irish and Italians.

Although I didn’t directly represent any, I knew about their cases and did legal work on them.  In the early ‘70s shortly before I left private practice, I had a bookie client in the then notorious bookie case of Commonwealth v. Vitello, the first case in which evidence gained from wiretapping was to be introduced at trial.  This required me to become familiar with the wiretap law of Massachusetts, in order to defend my client, one of six or seven charged for gaming violations.

The criminal cases were not the only matters we handled.  I was deeply involved in the equal educational opportunity case before Judge W. Arthur Garrity better known as the school busing case that disrupted the public school system in the city for years.  Our firm represented the Boston School Committee, then as unpopular with the media as Whitey Bulger is now.

It was a very busy life for me, perhaps too busy.  I was happy to leave it and become an assistant district attorney.  I wasn’t in that job too long before this Quincy detective DA Delahunt had sicked on me, Peter Gallagher, started calling me.  Peter wanted me to come over and meet some of the people he was working with.  I kept putting him off but eventually just to stop the calls I went to this address in Quincy he gave me.

It was off Hancock Street at the back end of the Boston Gear Works building.   A small door at the left rear of the building opened up to a narrow stairway that took me to a second floor.  There, in two large office rooms, were the people Peter wanted me to meet.  It was a handful of detectives who were working as a special unit in what they called the Quincy police sub-station.

They looked a little wary when I entered.  They had to have had several heated meetings prior to that time trying to determine the appropriateness of bringing me into their location.   They had obvious concerns that my law firm’s prior clients were Mafia people and other gangsters; against that they wanted to get into the electronic surveillance business which could only be done with an assistant district attorney.  I was the only one with experience in that area.

This is early in 1977.  On the wall hidden behind a cloth which they lifted after assuring themselves I was on the level, they had huge schematic laying out the organized crime groups in the Boston area, right at the top was Whitey Bulger, not too well-known by others but already a major target of this Quincy police unit.

In charge of the unit was Lieutenant David Franklin Rowell.  I mention his middle name because down the road we would set up an undercover operation in a office building with legitimate businesses.  We had to give it a name so we used the name Franklin and Fletcher.  I was Fletcher.  That’s the name this group tagged on me.

It was with this small Quincy police group that I did my first wiretap.  It was this group that taught me a great deal about how to do effective investigatory police work.  The wiretap was on a bookie operation down near the Fore River shipyard.  Later I would do other investigations with them.

The people in the group were dedicated detectives who worked hard.  It was the only group for a long time that had Whitey Bulger in their focus.  It was the only police group that Whitey Bulger absolutely hated.   There are many FBI reports filed by John Connolly telling how Whitey complained about the Quincy police and the Norfolk DA’s office.  He accused them of harassing him and having a vendetta against him.  Whitey apparently believed that the cops were supposed to be his friends or roll over and go away whenever he was around.  He felt this group to be a bane to his existence.

Dave Rowell was its leader.   He was one of the most effective police leaders I ever met.  He had a pleasant persistent personality.   He had the ability to get what he wanted.  Always ready to negotiate with me over tactics, refusing to take a no, he always seemed to be able to convince me to see it his way which was usually the right way.  Highly motivated, totally honest, fully courageous, he was highly dedicated to doing the job right.  He interacted with his men as their equal without letting anyone doubt he was in charge.  He was an absolute pleasure to deal with because he was a man of his word and always followed through on any promise he made.

The four detectives in the unit at that time were all different in personality and ability.  It was a compliment to Rowell that he could  make them work as an effective unit.  They were: Peter Gallagher a real street cop skilled at ferreting out information who had no peer in being able to get information from the street.  He had his hand on the pulse of everything and could blend in with any group, develop friendships and gain information and informants;   Paul Snow who was expert at surveillance.  If there was an important need to follow someone or watch a site we always depended on him.  Always relaxed, smiling and willing to do the extra bit necessary, he helped keep the tensions down.  Gallagher and Snow were best out in the street.  Dick Bergeron an expert at analysis and digging out obscure connections, the in-house master at making links between events and giving ideas for future steps.  No one has as much ability as he did at doing the necessary research we needed.  Bob Crowley, smart and hard working.  Always ready to do whatever had to be done — he could do the street work of dealing with informants or surveillance but also could assist in the more mundane office work.  Like Snow, helpful at keeping the tensions of operating in stressful situations under control.

They never gave up chasing after Bulger.  One night they put a duplicate car to his in front of his house and took his car to a garage where expert mechanics installed as secret listening device.  They brought the car back and swapped it with the duplicate.  Later that day Rowell got a call from Whitey who told him he found the device.  Rowell believed Whitey was tipped off by his FBI handler.  That’s what they were up against.

Another time Bergeron was working with the DEA and had to chase after Whitey to recover another expensive bug Whitey discovered.  They met him in a garage.  Whitey lashed out at him and the Quincy police.

I tell this because I’ve heard people say that Whitey had some type of carte blanche from law enforcement or the cops were afraid to chase after him.  I wanted to show that was not true and make a record of the accomplishments of this small group in its effort to arrest Whitey.

From working with these men I realized how a small group of dedicated and hard-working men could accomplish much.  I’d also see this with other groups.  The state police showed this under Sgt Bobby Long when they did the Lancaster Street investigation.   None of these small, hard-working, honest groups of cops had to make deals with top-level informants to do their work.  Their work should be commended and used as an example for others to follow.  I also appreciate what they taught me in my early years and wanted to express my thanks to them.


11 thoughts on “The One Local Police Department Whitey Bulger Hated: the Quincy Police.

  1. Wow what a bullshit puff piece designed to whitewash and disinform. That very same unit is notorious for quincy doing illiegal surveillance, wiretapping, and just blatantly busting people and stealing half there drugs and reselling it. It is now used to protect Delahunts dispensary profits by busting anyone else selling weed.

  2. This book is pure fiction………….all the authors buddies………… my opinion the author is in fantasy land……”Bob Crowley, smart and hard working. ” Lmao………almost fell off my chair……

    1. First, recognize what you want to accomplish. I suggest all that can be done for John Connolly now, and I assume what is most important for him, is to get him out of prison. That means narrowly focusing on the steps that can be taken to bring that about. I suggest the first step is to accept that he was properly convicted in federal court in Boston. (Almost all the crimes he was convicted of took place after he retired from the FBI.) Whether the sentence of 8 – 10 years was overly harsh is now not important since he served his federal time. Next, is to stop complaining about the system being corrupt or unjust because you have to work in that system if he is to be freed. You can’t go into court and tell the judge he’s a jerk and expect to get a favorable ruling.
      So concentrate on the reason why he is now in prison. He was in effect convicted of being an accessory before the fact to murder. There are legal problems with the conviction (I’m not an expert with Florida law) relating to a statute of limitations problem, a proof problem of carrying a gun, an ineffective assistance of counsel problem, and an instruction concerning a lesser included offense. The Florida appeals court turned down Connolly’s appeal without a decision. There must be a way to get a rehearing in either Florida or the federal courts to decide this issue. That would mean working through the Florida lawyers who know the system and who, I expect, are doing this.
      I’m not a fan of the FBI and Connolly’s use of top echelon informants for several reasons. From my point of view in protecting their informants they went far over board. I try not to let my personal displeasure with Connolly interfere with my feeling he is being scapegoated. I will do a post where I will talk about the top echelon informant program and how it perverted justice.
      But my feelings aside, I recognize Connolly is now the victim of a great injustice. Fundamentally, this is shown by the great disparity in sentences given out in Florida. The shooter (Martorano) who Connolly never met got 12 years or less (his time ran concurrent with the federal time so in a sense he got no punishment); Flemmi who was Connolly’s informant and who may not have talked to him also got a concurrent sentence. Both Martorano and Flemmi had murdered other people and led criminal lives. Connolly who never murdered anyone prior to this charge worked over 20 years for the FBI without any problems and retired with honor. He gets no credit for his service and receives a sentence far out of proportion to the trigger man and other his informant.
      The only way I can see helping Connolly is to get the FBI to recognize that it put Connolly out there and let him swing all alone. I’ve noted only 100 retired agents signed a petition seeking to help him out of 50,000 people with FBI connections who could have done this. The FBI wants to run away from this. Where the FBI is to blame is that it knew what Connolly was doing and approved it until it became public. It then turned on him. It all boils down to a fundamental question, “can an FBI agent tell his informants he does not think a person will stand up to the FBI pressure.” Some say if you tell known killers that you are telling them to kill him. Actually, that doesn’t follow. Agent Morris testified the the deal Connolly had with his informants was he would give them a heads up if charges were coming down against them. No one had a problem with that. Connolly’s intent, if he told them that, could have been to suggest they may be danger of having charges brought against them. But writing that you see how I’m slipping back into a factual situation which has already been decided by a Florida jury against Connolly.
      That doesn’t help him. What does is for the FBI to step up and assert he had the right to do what he did in informing Whitey what he did which the jury found he did. If he had the authority to do that, it seems to me that a Florida jury cannot convict and FBI agent on actions he performed while working for the federal government just like a state jury could not convict a DEA agent for selling drugs to a person if he was operating in an undercover capacity for the government.
      I’ve suggested the issue has never been squarely raised and the FBI is negligent and remiss in its obligation to its agents not to clarify it. I know it has regulations and rules saying one thing but it has a practice of doing another thing. It should own up to its practice.
      So aside from the legal matters which should be pursued, the other thing one can do is to point out the great injustice in his sentence hoping that FBI will stand up or the Florida governor or Florida appeals court will take another look at his case.

  3. Wiretaping, I know nothing about. Constitutional rights: We all have constitutional rights to fair trials, fair appeals, equal protection, due proces, free speech, free association, and to be free from unjust prosecutions. I would add that judges and prosecutors, as agents of the government, that is as agents of the state, must not act over zealously one way or the other, must act in conformance with laws, regulations, and prior court decisions, and must not act in any way that shows even “the appearance” of conflict or of bias or of impropriety, or in any way that singles out anyone for preferential treatment or “selective enforcement” or undue harsh treatment or punishment. The Saint Patrick’s Day Parade case is a good example of where judges themselves acted “without lawful authority” in violating the free speech and free association rights of the South Boston Veterans, who were the parade organizers. The issues we wrestle with today are whether FBI agent John Connolly’s or others’ fair trial, due process and equal protection (equal treatment) rights were violated and/or whether the FBI itself violated people’s constitutional or statutory rights or whether Courts or prosecutors’ violated people’s rights.
    If you are interested in learning more, there are a number of books I could recommend. Or stay tuned and keep reading this blog! Issues are likely to resurface.

    1. I assume this is submitted in reply to William m. Connolly. If so, I hope he spells out his answers. If it is to me, could you be more specific. Thanks for writing.

  4. I think Martorano and Flemmmi were half-Irish. When my Irish godfather married a beautiful Italian girl in the 1950s, whom we all loved, that was considered marrying outside the family, then his brother married a beautiful Protestant girl,whom we all loved, and eventually, in the 1960s-1970s everyone marrried whomever they wanted to marry and by the 1980s-1990s no eyebrows were raised. When we grew up in mixed neighborhoods in Boston, Irish and Italians and Polish and Lithuanian young men were all part of the same gangs and the best of lifelong friends. Joe DeNucci said it best, “We felt sorry for our Irish friends, because they ended up marrying our sisters.” Ethnic stereotypes are older generations’ historic hang-ups, but also, ala Don Rickles, the source of good natured jokes. If we can’t laugh at our idiosyncracies, foibles and flaws, we’ve lost a sense both of human nature and God’s mirth. We ain’t perfect, and future generations will poke fun at our misconceptions, frailities and foul-ups. I hope future generations do far better than us in administrating justice. I hope this blog continues to shed light on dark corners—you remember those corners where the faux gas lamps or electric lights didn’t quite illuminate. They were scary!

    1. Well said about the changing relationships among the Irish and Italians over the years. I tried to express that in my reply to notaboyo especially the ethnic mix up among the so=called Irish gangs. My best friends at one time were Polski (obviously Polish), Gindy (I think Lithuanian) and Canata (Italian). We hung around together for a while until I hung around with Luzzy (Swedish) and Rumby (Italian). The Irish kids my age were in and out at times like Wimpy, Muggsey, Red, Jake, Moe, Porky and so on. It made a good Borscht of people.
      I agree fully with you about the changing times. Good post — as you suggest it is best to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

  5. The Irish and Italian issue you mention is interesting. Only an Irishman or Italian would realize how prevalent it is in Boston and I think it has alot to do with the Bulger/FBI/Police issue. A friend of mine was indicted and told by his attorney; ” They already think your guilty, everyone involed is Irish except you, even me and I’m your attorney. Your Italian your presumed guitly.” Thats Boston. They were willing to let Whitey and the so called (but non-existent) Irish Mob do what they wanted including murder women !! as long as they got the Eyetalians aka Anguilos, Salemme, Patriarca etc. There’s a deep rooted, long lasting rivalry aka hatred brought to its extreme by law enforcement. Just look at the Salvati case. Innocent men sent to die because they were Italian aka Organized Crime, same thing, right ? As one of your contributors said perception is reality. Just look at The “Irish Mob; Bulger, Weeks, then Martorano, Flemmi ? they must have been from southern Ireland.

    1. One aspect of the Irish/Italian relationship was that each were trying to take over the rackets. South Boston (Irish) had a gang named after one of its streets, the Gustin gang. They were bootleggers and hijackers. The Italians hoodlums were being affected by them. The Italians set up a meeting to straighten things out and gunned down the leader of the Gustins and his right hand man. Bad blood existed between the criminal gangs after that but the Italians eventually gained the ascendancy until the Winter Hill Mob came into being. Then a truce of sorts was worked out.
      But it went beyond the gangsters, it was a neighborhood thing. The biggest high school football game of the year took place on Thanksgiving day when Southie High in its red and blue uniforms played East Boston High in its blue and gold uniforms. Before the game the public announcer would give the names of the starting players on each team. On the Southie side all the players were Irish, on the East Boston side they were Italian. I remember two things about those games as a youngster: first, there were always fights going on among the gangs. (A nice way to celebrate Thanksgiving.) The other is one game when the announcer read the lineup for Southie. Each time an Irish name was mentioned a loud cheer went up from the Southie side and a silence from the Eastie side. He then announced the Eastie team, the same result happened in reverse, a loud cheer came from the Eastie side and the Southie side remained silent. That was until the last name was called, an end for the Eastie team. Both sides erupted into cheers. The announcer said playing right end is Joseph Cali; to the South Boston side they heard Joesph Kelly. The whole thing was strange because the family that lived next door to me was Italian which was not uncommon in either section but the majority of the people were of one of the ethnic backgrounds. The cops, of course, were heavily Irish but there were a good amount of Italians on the force also. Just like Winter Hill had Buddy McLean, Howie Winter, Whitey Bulger along with Johnny Martorano, Stevie Flemmi. I’d point out that some have said in Boston the reason the Angiulo group was targeted was because of the Irish cops. That is false because after the Apalachin meeting of the Italian mobsters the FBI declared a nationwide campaign against the Mafia. In cities where there was no Irish/Italian rivalries the FBI still was after the Italians. The firm I worked in had an Italian and Irish partner. The Mafia guys would not discuss their business in front of the Irish partner.

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