Boston, MA – In a ruling with far-reaching implications for diversity in the Boston Police Department (BPD), the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) has found that BPD discriminates against Black recruits in the Training Academy, disciplining them more harshly than White recruits. MCAD has ordered BPD to “cease and desist” from this conduct and to reinstate and compensate Claude Defay, the individual recruit who brought the case.
Mr. Defay is represented pro bono by the law firm of WilmerHale, together with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, an organization that has several other pending discrimination lawsuits against BPD. “Diversity in police ranks is a key component of community representation and accountability,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee. “We are committed to rooting out discrimination at the Boston Police Department wherever it exists: from recruit training to hiring and promotion practices. Our communities are safer and stronger when minority police officers are given equal opportunity to join the force and advance, and when police departments reflect the neighborhoods they serve.”
MCAD’s finding of discrimination at the Training Academy arises from the case of Claude Defay, a resident of Dorchester of Haitian descent. He left a career in the financial services sector because he wanted to join the police force, starting academy training in 2010. He was terminated from the training program in 2011, however, when BPD alleged that he had discussed an exam with a fellow recruit during a bathroom break. He filed a complaint with MCAD charging that BPD discriminated against him in dismissing him.
Following a five-day trial with testimony from multiple witnesses, MCAD ruled in Mr. Defay’s favor, finding that BPD imposed harsher discipline on Mr. Defay and other Black recruits compared to White recruits.
Discriminatory police practices are also being challenged in three federal lawsuits: Smith v.Boston (challenging promotional exam for police lieutenants); Lopez v. Lawrence (challenging promotional exam for police sergeants); and Jones v. Boston (challenging discriminatory and unreliable drug screening).
“Issues of police diversity are profoundly important,” noted Espinoza-Madrigal of the Lawyers’ Committee. Espinoza-Madrigal added: “Our increasingly diverse communities remain significantly underrepresented. We are optimistic that we will be able to continue to strike down arbitrary and unfair practices that stand in the way of police diversity and that weaken the integrity of our police departments.”