Two Brookline officers refuse to go back to work pending racism investigation

Residents packed Brookline Town Hall on Tuesday night as speakers addressed the Board of Selectmen about the racial climate in town.
Residents packed Brookline Town Hall on Tuesday night as speakers addressed the Board of Selectmen about the racial climate in town. –Ellen Ishkanian / The Boston Globe

Two Brookline police officers have refused to go back to work until the independent investigation into what they are describing as a “culture of institutional racism’’ in the department is complete, according to The Boston Globe.

The town of Brookline hired an outside investigator to assess the racial climate inside the department last month after Officers Estifanos Zerai-Misgun and Prentice Pilot alleged that they had been discriminated against by fellow officers and superiors.

On Tuesday, the officers spoke at a Board of Selectmen meeting, stating they refused to go back to work until the investigation is finished due to fear of an unsafe workplace, the Globe reported.

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Board of Selectmen chairman Neil Wishinsky said he is confident in Police Chief Daniel O’Leary and his ability to provide a safe environment for his officers.

“To be absolutely clear there will be no tolerance of discrimination or related retaliation against any employee of the Brookline Police Department,’’ he said at the meeting, per the Globe. “We sincerely hope that you return to work with the understanding and belief that the chief, this board, and the town, as demonstrated by the turnout here, will support you.’’

Zerai-Misgun said he first reported feeling unsafe to O’Leary over a year ago when a superior officer had questioned him about why a black man would be allowed behind the wheel of an unmarked police cruiser, the Globe reported. He said at the meeting that there have been numerous racially charged incidents since.

At a December 17 selectmen meeting, Pilot recalled an incident in early December where, after pulling up to a superior while in uniform and a marked car, he was told to do some ““n—– jumping jacks for me and I’ll put in a good word for you.’’

“These allegations, though disturbing, will be dealt with and should not take away from the outstanding work the Department and our Members do on a daily basis,’’ O’Leary said in a December statement.

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Residents called on selectmen to grant the officers paid leave until the outside investigation is complete during the public comment period Tuesday night, the Globe reported.

Read the full story at the Globe.

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