Suspended Boston police officer Barrett sues commissioner, mayor

By Maria Chutchian
Globe Correspondent / August 4, 2009

E-mail this article

Invalid email address
Invalid email address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

  • Email|
  • Print|
  • Reprints|
  • |
Text size +

Justin Barrett, the Boston police officer suspended from the force for his e-mail likening Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., to a “banana-eating jungle monkey,’’ has filed a lawsuit against the Police Department, police commissioner, and mayor, saying the city violated his civil and due process rights.

The 18-page lawsuit accuses the three parties of “conspiring to intentionally inflict emotional distress and conspiring to intentionally interfere with the property rights, due process rights, and civil rights of the plaintiff.’’

Barrett added to the controversy surrounding last month’s arrest of Gates at his home in Cambridge, when he responded to a column by The Boston Globe’s Yvonne Abraham, using the racial slurs in reference to Gates.

When police officials learned of the biting missive, they quickly moved to fire him.

Later, during a national campaign to save his job, Barrett told CNN he is not a racist and “treats everyone with dignity and respect.’’

Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis suspended Barrett last Wednesday, stripping him of his badge and firearm and later released a statement calling the officer’s remarks “racist and inflammatory.

“These racist opinions and feelings have no place in this department or in our society and will not be tolerated,’’ Davis said.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino called for Barrett’s dismissal, saying: “He’s gone. G-O-N-E.’’

Representatives of both the mayor and commissioner declined to comment yesterday on the pending litigation.

According to the lawsuit, the mayor and commissioner’s actions caused Barrett pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, posttraumatic stress, sleeplessness, indignities and embarrassment, degradation, injury to reputation, and restrictions on personal freedom.

Barrett, on the police force for two years, requested that they be enjoined from decreasing, terminating, or withholding any wages. He also asked for money damages to compensate for the emotional and physical pain he suffered, attorney’s fees, and punitive damages.

The suit also contends that Davis and Menino’s treatment of the officer is “disproportionate to the allegations against Officer Barrett given he has not had any meaningful opportunity to prepare any defense to the allegations based on [their] statements.’’

Barrett had no prior disciplinary history; and no investigation has begun for his termination, but Davis said at a press conference last Thursday that a hearing would be scheduled within the next 10 days.

Barrett said in the lawsuit that Davis and Menino’s statements to the public in recent weeks have made it clear that he will be terminated and therefore any hearing or investigation will be tainted.

Boston police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said it was policy not to comment on pending litigation, and Menino’s press office said they knew the suit had been filed, but had not been formally served.