The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Lawbreakers are the new lawmen

From the mysterious Cipher, Part 3 of a series in the Boston Globe highlighting one of the many problems cropping up in our indebted society. Terrifying stuff.

Consider these resume highlights:

Kenneth J. Dorsey: Manager of a Jamaica Plain gin mill. Ran illegal gaming operation. Busted by Boston Police. Rifle and shotgun confiscated. Guilty plea, 1994.

Kevin J. Dalton: Plymouth County deputy sheriff until 2001. Fired after State Police probe into alleged shakedown of a company seeking a contract with the sheriff's department, an accusation he denies.

Constance M. Sorenson: Filed for bankruptcy in 2003 with $47,000 in delinquent credit card debt. Fined for punching a woman in the mouth outside a bar. Arrest warrant pending for failure to pay $100 fine in another case.Along with that baggage, Sorenson, Dalton, and Dorsey also carry badges - as officers in the murkiest backwater of the Massachusetts law enforcement community. They earn their keep as constables, independent operators appointed by cities and towns to serve court papers and execute court orders.

In Boston alone there are 186 of them, and Mayor Thomas M. Menino has given arrest powers to every one, including Dorsey and 87 others with criminal arrest records for offenses including firearms violations, indecent assault and battery on a child, and impersonating a police officer. Seven have been appointed in spite of guilty verdicts, among them one convicted twice in the last four years of beating his wife.

Constables are an odd, anachronistic leftover from colonial days. No training is required, no oversight is provided, and no state agency keeps track of their identities, much less their numbers - an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 statewide.

Yet many among them, including Dorsey, Dalton, and Sorenson, are foot soldiers for the most aggressive debt collectors in Massachusetts.