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MBTA police brutality lawsuit to bring more transparency, improvements

MBTA to improve citizen complaint system, increase accountability in wake of civil rights lawsuit.
mbta police, mbta police brutality, boston police brutality
The MBTA settled a civil rights and excessive force lawsuit this week. Photo: Flickr

A lawsuit brought by a Roxbury woman who was brutally beaten at the hands of MBTA officers in 2014 after she tried to intervene in a situation where she saw police abusing another woman will result in policy changes and more transparency at the MBTA.

In March 2014, Mary Holmes was at the Dudley Square MBTA station when she saw MBTA Officer Jennifer Garvey scream and shove a woman. Holmes was worried, so she intervened, trying to calm the woman and asking Garvey to stop being so aggressive. When that failed, she called 911 for help.

In response, Garvey and her partner, Officer Alfred Trinh, pepper-sprayed Holmes in the face, beat her with a metal baton and arrested her, handcuffing her hands behind her back while forcing her to the ground.

"I saw something, I said something, and I was beaten and arrested for it,” Holmes said in a statement. "Hopefully, these policy changes will act as a deterrent and help ensure that no one else has to go through what I went through."

Holmes filed a civil rights lawsuit in 2015 against officers Garvey and Trinh and added the MBTA and one of Garvey's supervisors as defendants in 2016 after learning that the transit agency had allowed a policy to develop within its police department of failing to properly supervise, investigate and discipline its officers.

"There was a severe lack of accountability," said Carl Williams, staff attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts, in a statement. "Officer Garvey had a history of complaints that were regularly ignored. Police departments must police their own officers. That is what Ms. Holmes' case is all about." 

After Ms. Holmes filed her lawsuit, the MBTA enhanced their systems and policies to monitor officer behavior and provide aggression-management training. The superintendent must review all excessive use of force complaints; every such complaint will trigger a request for all available video evidence. Also, all MBTA police officers must undergo at least four hours of "management of aggressive behavior" training. In addition, the MBTA will now post their use of force and several other policies online and make it easier for civilians to file police complaints.

“Prior to the resolution of this matter, our department took significant steps to improve monitoring and training, and we will continue to ensure that all of our officers engage the public in a professional manner,” Transit Police Chief Kenneth Green said in a statement.

The settlement, reached Tuesday, requires payments to Holmes and her attorneys, and it also confirms policy changes that the MBTA made while the lawsuit was pending, which sought to enhance their systems and policies to monitor MBTA officer behavior and provide aggression management training. The amount Holmes will be paid was not disclosed.

 
 
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