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Judge Dismisses Police Supervisor's Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

September 09, 2003
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Judge Dismisses Police Supervisor's Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

BOSTON (AP) -- A federal judge has thrown out a racial discrimination suit against the city of Boston by a black police officer who found a noose hanging near his patrol motorcycle, saying he failed to prove his problems on the job resulted from racism.

In a 23-page decision released Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner said Lt. Valimore Williams had not shown the conduct of city officials was of "the severity or pervasiveness necessary to make out an objectively offensive or hostile environment on the basis of race."

"This lawsuit comes down to Williams' subjective belief and conclusory allegations that the defendants were motivated by racial animus -- apparently based on the fact that he is African-American and they are white -- which is not enough," Gertner wrote.

A phone number for Valimore Williams was not listed and he could not be reached for comment Wednesday. His attorney, Raymond Sayeg, told The Boston Globe he was "disappointed with the judge's ruling."

Williams, then commander of the Mobile Operations Unit in 1999, sued the city, Mayor Thomas Menino, Police Commissioner Paul Evans, and five police officers in 2000, alleging that he was mistreated by underlings and superiors because of his race. Williams was later promoted.

The case against Menino and Evans was dismissed in 2001.

Attorneys for two of the officers named in the suit said Williams didn't get along with some co-workers because he was too demanding, not because he was black.

"They didn't like him, but it seems like it was mutual," said David Burgess, attorney for officer Michael Donovan. "He wanted things done in a certain way. He was quite militaristic, and these individuals apparently didn't meet his requirements."

In her ruling, Gertner cited several instances where Williams alleged he was undermined because of his race, including a July 1998 incident in which Williams said a sergeant who worked for Williams jammed his radio signals.

The noose incident, which Gertner called "particularly troubling," came "close to the type of event that might underline a viable hostile work environment claim," Gertner said.

In the April 1999 incident, one officer tied yellow police tape being used for crowd control in the Boston Marathon into a noose, and gave it to a white officer, Daniel Wallace. The next day, Wallace attached the tape to a steam pipe near the supervisors' parked motorcycles in what he said was a joke with no racist intent. Williams became upset and complained to superiors.

When Wallace's black partner told him that the noose might be interpreted as a symbol of racist lynchings, Wallace apologized to Williams. Wallace was suspended for 15 days and transferred out of the unit.

Gertner said that viewed in "full factual context," the incident was isolated and not necessarily directed only at Williams.

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