Black Officer Sues Harvard Police, Claims Bias

The Harvard University Police Department passed over a black officer for a number of promotions and superiors routinely made racist remarks about blacks and Latinos, according to a federal lawsuit.

The complaint by Officer George Pierce, a veteran patrolman who is black, said he applied for open sergeant positions a number of times only to be passed over for less-qualified, non-black employees. The reason Pierce didn't get promoted was his race, the lawsuit alleged, citing various instances when Pierce sought a sergeant spot but was turned down.

"Throughout Pierce's employment at Harvard, Harvard and the department have created and maintained a pervasive racially-biased environment within the department," the lawsuit said.

The complaint also alleges that Pierce had to endure supervisory officers making racial comments about blacks dominating sports and a derogatory slur describing a Latino police officer.

The suit, which was filed late last month in U.S. District Court in Boston, seeks unspecified damages.
Kevin Galvin, a Harvard spokesman, said the school doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Pierce has worked as a Harvard patrol officer since 2002 and is a former police officer in the town of Arlington.

Ellen Messing, Pierce's attorney, said her client has about 30 years of experience in law enforcement and just wants a promotion he feels he's earned. "He believes that he can contribute and he can do a good job but he's been denied the opportunity because of his race," Messing said.

The lawsuit comes two years after a panel was asked to look at allegations of campus police racial profiling and recommended better training and outreach to students and faculty.

The six-member committee, headed by Boston attorney Ralph Martin, an African-American and former Suffolk County district attorney, was created amid concerns Harvard police officers had unfairly stopped black students because of their race.

This program aired on April 21, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.


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