Report: Transit officer resigns after allegedly using excessive force against Black man at Forest Hills

The incident happened during the afternoon on April 28.

Forest Hills MBTA station in Jamaica Plain.
Forest Hills MBTA station in Jamaica Plain. –Blake Nissen/ For The Boston Globe

A Black man was allegedly dragged off a bus in late April by an MBTA Transit Police officer who pressed his face into the ground while kneeling on him, and that officer has since resigned, while his supervisor was placed on administrative leave, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

Now-former Officer Nicholas Morrissey left the department on May 29, according to The Boston Globe, rather than go through the process that could have terminated him from the department. His supervisor was suspended.

Morrissey, who is white, according to the Globe, accused the unidentified man of attempting to spit on him, and then a struggle resulted in the 63-year-old falling from the bus. Morrissey had been sent there for a call about a reportedly drunk man who wouldn’t get off a bus at its final stop around 3:45 p.m.

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However, Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins said in a news release that what Morrissey reported happened isn’t what surveillance video allegedly shows. Morrissey allegedly “dragged” the man from the bus and then pressed him face down into the ground while kneeling into his back for about 20 seconds and pressing his head into the pavement. Morrissey then pulled the man out of the way before he was brought to a nearby hospital via ambulance, according to Rollins.

“I have said many times, the vast majority of police officers are dedicated public servants who work honorably and diligently to keep us all safe,” Rollins said in the release. “Public employees, however, are held to a higher standard, especially those charged with keeping the public and our communities safe.”

The man suffered abrasions to his face as a result of the incident.

“The alleged events, as described, are contrary to the core values and mission of the MBTA and its police department,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a statement obtained by Boston.com. “Transit Police officers receive specialized training in de-escalation techniques and are expected to treat riders with dignity and respect at all times. 

“We take this matter very seriously,” wrote Poftak. “The Transit Police Department’s Command Staff is conferring with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office and a thorough investigation is underway.” 

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Transit Police Superintendent Richard Sullivan said he couldn’t comment to the Globe on what happened, other than to say the department knows of the incident.

“We took quick decisive action and the officer is no longer a member of the Transit Police,” he told the newspaper. “It would be inappropriate for me to comment further as this matter is still an open investigation.”

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