2 Brookline police officers reject chief’s invitation to mediate concerns of racism

Brookline police officers Prentice Pilot (left) and Estifanos Zerai-Misgun (right).
Brookline police officers Prentice Pilot (left) and Estifanos Zerai-Misgun (right). –John Blanding / The Boston Globe

Two Brookline police officers who say racism in the department made them fear for their safety have rejected the chief’s public appeal urging them to return to work for mediation.

In an email sent to Chief Daniel O’Leary and the town’s five selectmen, officers Prentice Pilot and Estifanos Zerai-Misgun reiterated their skepticism of O’Leary’s offers to mediate the conflict, saying that “racism cannot be mediated.’’

“The Chief and the Selectmen would like us all to believe mediation would resolve this problem,’’ Pilot and Zerai-Misgun wrote in the letter. “However, the problem is that Brookline has a systemic racism problem that remains unaddressed.’’

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Both men left work in December after Pilot reported another officer used a racial slur in conversation with him. Zerai-Misgun filed a complaint regarding racism last year. O’Leary claimed that an independent investigation into discrimination and workplace safety began earlier this month in attempt to address the complaints.

Still, both men have emphasized that they don’t feel the department has taken their complaints seriously, and that they believe their safety is in jeopardy.

“We do not feel safe on the job since ‘accidents’ happen,’’ their email said. “We have no doubt that despite the seriousness of an injury or fatality, the officer would not be held accountable should an ‘accident’ befall us.’’

Pilot and Zerai-Misgun’s skepticism stems from what they say are lies O’Leary’s letter contained. While O’Leary said both men were on paid leave, their letter states the town’s selectmen have not actually granted them pay. The officers also said they aren’t convinced the department honestly and thoroughly investigated the incidents.

“If this is the extent of the investigatory prowess of the Brookline Police Department, no matter what acts of aggression take place against us in the future, it is clear we will not be believed,’’ the email said. “Our experiences and our reports will always be subordinate to white officers, who behave as they please, and with impunity.’’

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In an email to The Boston Globe, O’Leary said he was disappointed that his offer of mediation had been rejected.

“I agree with these Officers that racism must not be tolerated,’’ O’Leary said. “I disagree with their characterization of the steps that have been taken to date to address their complaints. Unnamed individuals cannot be disciplined, and our laws do not permit named individuals to be disciplined without due process.’’

Pilot and Zerai-Misgun said they believe the offer of mediation comes as a way to delay a resolution, and that their families are suffering as they go unpaid.

“Intolerance ought not be tolerated,’’ they wrote. “Unfortunately in Brookline, not only is racism tolerated, it is promoted and defended by the Selectmen.’’

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