BOSTON (CBS) – In a rare interview, former Boston Police Officer Michael Cox talked exclusively to the WBZ-TV about being mistaken for a suspect and beaten 25 years ago.
In January 1995, Cox and his partner were working undercover in the gang unit when they got a radio call about a shooting in Roxbury with a description of the getaway car.
“We were able to catch up with the car,” Cox recalled. “I got out and chased behind one subject and he jumped over the fence,” said Cox.
Cox was right behind him – and knew other officers were on the way.
But just as he started to climb the fence, Cox said, “I was hit in the back of my head and I turned around and got hit in the front of my head.”
“I start to get kicked and punched hit by multiple sides all at once. When the hitting and beating was going on, someone said stop he’s a cop and I kind of remember trying to get up and at some point seeing a silhouette of a police officer.”
Mistaken for a suspect, Cox was severely beaten by fellow officers and was left on the ground until members of his own unit arrived and called for EMS.
“They told me I was pretty unrecognizable. I was kind of left out there. I couldn’t understand why a person or people would do that. I’m sure I didn’t put up any resistance,” he said.
But Cox, who suffered head injuries and kidney damage, said the department put up plenty of resistance, and tried to cover up what happened.
“Nobody was found responsible in any way for the criminal activity that occurred,” Cox told the I-Team.
And it didn’t end there. Late night threatening phone calls and slashed tires are just some of what Cox said his family was subjected to at the hands of the police.
“It was clear these people wanted me gone,” Cox said. “I was like, ‘This is not going to stop. Even if I leave it’s not going to stop.”
Cox refused to leave. And over the course of 30 years, he rose to the highest uniform rank in the Boston Police Department. Last year he became the chief in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Until now, Cox rarely talked about that cold January night in 1995. But in the wake of the George Floyd murder and the calls for police reform and defunding, he said it’s time.
“I think there’s a need for it now so people understand there are people in police departments that get it,” said Cox. “I get it in every level I’ve been both victim, I’m a person of color. I’ve seen what it’s like when departments fail in this way.”
“You hear the word ‘defund.’ I don’t know if anything has gotten better in this world when it was defunded. The reality is if you want to make something better, you have to invest in it. And that’s how it gets better.”
It took a civil rights lawsuit for Cox to be compensated for all he went through. Not bitter, he’s still hopeful that policing will still attract diverse people who care and want to help their communities.