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Officers Sue Boston Police Over Post-Leave Psychological Evaluations

Boston Police Department headquarters in 2018. (Joe Difazio for WBUR.)
Boston Police Department headquarters in 2018. (Joe Difazio for WBUR.)

Two Boston police officers and three police unions are suing Boston police over the department's policy of forcing officers returning to duty to complete a psychological evaluation.

According to the lawsuit, any officer on leave from work for six months or more is required to have a mental health evaluation with the department psychiatrist — regardless of why the officer was off the job. They are also required to receive a physical examination for any leaves longer than three months.

The suit alleges this violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which says employers can't require exams unless it's "job-related and consistent with business necessity."

"We think it's important that obviously officers be fit, but that it's an overreach for the department to subject them to psychological examinations or physical examinations unrelated to injuries," said attorney Bryan Decker, who is representing one of the officers, James LaCroix, and the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association.

LaCroix, who says he injured his back and hip during a foot chase of a suspect, was out on injury leave for 21 months. When he sought to return to light duty, he was ordered to receive a mental health evaluation as a condition of returning to work. He completed the evaluation and was approved for duty.

Renee Payne-Callender, a detective who broke a bone in her heel while on the job last year, says she was also required to receive an evaluation from the department psychiatrist when she was cleared to return to work almost a year later.

In addition to the two officers and the patrolmen's association, the unions representing detectives and superior officers are also jointly suing.

The suit alleges the department previously only required officers to undergo a psychological evaluation if they were returning from military leave. But to avoid violating a federal law protecting service members' rights, the requirement was expanded to all officers returning from leave longer than six months. Decker said he believes that's been the policy for a few years.

"Rather than just stop the practice, which we think they should have, instead they expanded it to everyone so that they wouldn't be accused of just targeting veterans," Decker said.

The suit is asking for unspecified damages, and that the court order BPD to stop requiring medial and psychological examinations "absent a business necessity or to determine the officer’s ability to perform job-related functions."

Boston police declined comment because of the pending litigation.

Ally Jarmanning Twitter Digital Producer
Ally is a reporter who champions data and public records in the WBUR newsroom.

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