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Lawyer’s Committee Tells Boston Mayor his Police Force Is 65% Too White

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“Race in Boston” Town Hall

July 19, 2016

In a letter sent today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice called on Mayor Martin Walsh to take proactive steps to diversify the Boston Police Department (BPD) and to implement meaningful implicit bias training for all officers.

Recent polls confirm that tension and distrust exist between law enforcement and communities of color in Boston. A fundamental problem is the lack of diversity in BPD. Simply put, Boston is becoming increasingly diverse, but BPD is not.

Drawing on data that we secured through a public records lawsuit we recently filed against BPD, our letter shows that while Boston has become a majority-minority city, the police force is still approximately 65% White. The lack of diversity in BPD’s supervisory ranks is even more stark: less than one-fifth of supervisory officers are Black, Latino, or Asian.

With each passing year, BPD is looking less and less like the community that it serves. In the face of these numbers, city officials profess that their hands are tied. Last week, at a town hall on race, Boston’s Chief of Economic Development defended BPD arguing that the City could not do more because of vague and unspecified “barriers.”

In our letter, we set the record straight: some of the greatest barriers are created directly by the City. In fact, the City and BPD are aggressively fighting efforts to diversify the police force.

We call on Mayor Walsh to take proactive steps to improve diversity in BPD.

We also call on BPD to conduct ongoing implicit bias training for its officers.

Boston is just one incident away from becoming another Ferguson or Baton Rouge. We can avoid this if the City and BPD work closely with communities of color.

Our letter to Mayor Walsh is available here:

Donate Now and Help Us Create A World Full of Justice and Equality

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice
294 Washington St. Suite #443
Boston, MA 02108

Written by aboutblackboston

July 19, 2016 at 5:32 pm

Posted in Fresh Spots

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Summarizing the African-American Police Officers’ Lawsuit filed Against Town of Brookline 

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Written by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice& Fair Work, P.C.  Rcvd 6/20/16

 African-American Police Officers File Lawsuit Against Brookline Allege Hostile Work Environment, Racial Slurs.

 Two African-American police officers filed a lawsuit today against the Town of Brookline in Massachusetts Superior Court, alleging racial discrimination in employment. 

In their complaint, Officers Prentice Pilot and Estifanos Zerai-Misgun cite a range of conduct that they say has created a hostile work environment at the Brookline Police Department, including racial slurs by fellow officers, differential treatment based on race, and a refusal of town officials to adequately investigate their charges of racial discrimination.

“Officer Zerai-Misgun and I have together given over 20 years of service to the Town of Brookline,” said Officer Pilot. “We have raised issues of racially discriminatory treatment to town officials on many occasions, but nothing has been done to remedy the situation. We are now seeking outside intervention to help bring about change.” 

The officers are represented in their complaint by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice and by Fair Work, P.C. 

 In February 2016, they filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and today removed the case to court.
Officer Zerai-Misgun stated: 

“There is a culture at Brookline Police Department, which is reinforced by the Chief and other town officials, that employees should not complain about racial discrimination; that when such complaints are made, they are swept under the rug; and that individuals who complain about racial discrimination are ostracized and subjected to retaliation.” 
He noted that town officials have failed to act on the officers’ charges of discrimination even though the town’s own Commission for Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Relations has found that there is a “culture of institutional racism.” 

Brookline residents have also turned out in large numbers to public hearings to demand that town officials address the problem.

Among other incidents, the officers allege:
A sergeant told Officer Pilot to “do some n***** jumping jacks” for him.

A lieutenant, upon seeing Officer Zerai-Misgun in an unmarked police cruiser, stated in front of several other officers: “What the f***? Who would put a black man behind one of those?”

An officer stated to Officer Zerai-Misgun, “I can’t believe a black guy without a college degree scored higher than me on the exam.”

Other officers referred to Officer Zerai-Misgun as an “FI” when he was in plainclothes, which stands for “Field Interview” or “Field Investigation” and means a suspicious individual who should be stopped and questioned.

Another officer stated to Officer Zerai-Misgun: “I almost ran you over – I can’t see you when it’s dark unless your eyes are open.”

Hillary Schwab of Fair Work, P.C., one of the attorneys for the officers, noted that the work environment in a police department is particularly critical. 

“Officers frequently depend on other officers for back-up, including in dangerous situations. Officers carry firearms, and the potential for danger is a constant part of the job. Conduct by colleagues and superior officers that shows a lack of respect, particularly when it is racially discriminatory, is therefore not only offensive but fosters a work environment that is unsafe.” 

She added that an investigator retained by the Town to investigate the Department’s racial climate recently confirmed a culture in which racial remarks are made; that some senior officers are perceived to have “crossed the line and used the N-word”; that “there may be some senior officers who went beyond [racial] bantering”; and that minority officers reported the existence of an “Old Boy Irish Network” that encouraged nepotism.

Oren Sellstrom, Litigation Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, another of the attorneys representing the officers, added that “the lack of diversity in the Brookline police force only exacerbates the problem.” 
He noted that of the approximately 130 police officers employed by the town, only approximately 6 are African-American, and all of the supervisory officers are white. 
He added that recent statistics also show that Brookline police are ten times more likely to stop African-American individuals compared to their representation in the Brookline population.

The complaint filed today asks for damages for the two officers as well as for injunctive relief ordering the town to take affirmative steps to remedy the hostile work environment.

Contact:  Lawyers’ Committee Web Site

Written by aboutblackboston

June 20, 2016 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Fresh Spots

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