Police abuse case partly upheld, appealed

JACKSON SQ.—A Boston Police internal investigation of a 2011 police brutality incident in Jackson Square has ended with a charge of abusive language upheld, but a more serious excessive force complaint ruled unproven, according to the victim, Jamaica Plain teacher Michael Pearlstein-Gluck.

Pearlstein-Gluck said the Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel, the Boston Police Department’s (BPD) civilian review board, has accepted his appeal of the May 15 decision.

BPD spokesperson Cheryl Fiandaca confirmed the decision without comment. She identified the officer who used abusive language as Officer Francisco Colon.

“I don’t believe that the [BPD’s Internal Affairs Division] investigated the Use of Force complaint thoroughly enough,” Pearlstein-Gluck said in an email to the Gazette. He added the BPD did not apologize for the abuse in its letter announcing the decision, “nor did any of the officers at any point in this process.”

The abuse incident happened on the evening of March 5, 2011 in the parking lot of the Stop & Shop supermarket at 301 Centre St. Pearlstein-Gluck says that plainclothes police officers choked him and used a homophobic slur while accusing him of buying drugs, when he had only bought groceries at the market. He was not charged with any crime and he says he does not use illegal drugs.

Pearlstein-Gluck said he remains mystified about the reason he was stopped by police. His actions consisted of walking through a parking lot and shopping for groceries while talking to his girlfriend on a cell phone.

He said that he had another idea about the incident following the controversial February killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin by a crime watch member. Martin was wearing a “hoodie,” or hooded sweatshirt, when he was killed, leading to speculation that people wearing hoodies are stereotyped as street criminals trying to hide their faces. Pearlstein-Gluck recalled that, like Martin, he was wearing a hoodie on the night of the incident.

“The fact that they stopped me, in the end, doesn’t bother me so much,” Pearlstein-Gluck said. “It’s how they stopped me.”

He previously told the Gazette that the officers did not display badges and immediately began touching him and trying to get him inside a van. Even after realizing their mistake, the officers threatened him with arrest for disorderly conduct, he previously said.

He said that a letter from BPD’s Bureau of Professional Standards informed him that the officer “may” be disciplined for violating BPD’s “respectful treatment” rules in the incident. The letter also said that the excessive force complaint was judged “not sustained,” meaning that investigators were faced with conflicting stories and no independent evidence.

“I suspect that, in order to protect their colleagues, the other officers were following the ‘blue code of silence,’” Pearlstein-Gluck said. “I don’t believe that the IAD investigated the use of force charge thoroughly enough.”

It is unclear when or how the Oversight Panel will review his appeal.

Pearlstein-Gluck said that, since the incident, he has not had any further problems with police officers. In fact, he said, he recently called MBTA Transit Police when a fight broke out on a train.

“The presence of the officers helped restore safety to the train,” he said.

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