Photo by Marc N. Belanger via Wikimedia Commons
A Massachusetts police department is under scrutiny for allegations of senior officers making anti-Asian and anti-Muslim comments, the Patriot Ledger reports.
Brian Mannetta, a sergeant at the Sharon Police Department in Sharon, Massachusetts, filed a lawsuit against the department for $100,000 on June 10, citing racial discrimination and a hostile work environment. According to the Patriot Ledger, Mannetta is of Chinese and Ecuadorian descent and has served as an officer since 2005.
In 2015, Mannetta claims in the lawsuit, Lt. Jeff Penders repeatedly made racist remarks toward him during roll calls. Among them, Mannetta says, were asking if he had the Chinese Bird Flu after he had coughed and imitating stereotypical Chinese sounds.
“Cats – you people eat those things, don’t you?” Penders asked Mannetta.
Despite frequently complaining about the racist comments, Mannetta received no support from former Police Chief John Ford and current Police Chief Donald Brewer, both of whom were then lieutenants. The lawsuit states that Ford threatened to stall Mannetta’s career advancement and told him to move on from Penders’ words.
Brewer also made an anti-Muslim remark to Mannetta in 2015, according to the lawsuit. When Brewer was performing roll call, he noted a memo that said to do additional checks of the local Islamic center’s school.
“While you’re there,” Brewer then said, “tell them they should tell their kids not to make pipe bombs.”
The Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MA) called for an investigation into the remark on Tuesday in a press release. The Council bills itself as the largest Muslim advocacy group in the U.S.
Although Brewer made the comment before becoming police chief, CAIR-MA Civil Rights Director Barbara J. Dougan said, it is still disturbing to the local Muslim community.
“Derogatory remarks by a superior officer about any segment of the community would send a troubling message to the department’s officers and could markedly impact the officers’ treatment toward those whom they serve,” Dougan said.
In his lawsuit, Mannetta also states that senior officers, such as Ford, continually stonewalled him from promotions and diversity initiatives. They often promoted less experienced White officers instead of Mannetta and other officers of color.
Officers also disparaged the Black community and Mannetta’s interactions with it. At a 2020 rally hosted by the Sharon Racial Equity Alliance, for example, an off-duty officer took Mannetta’s photo and yelled out at the crowd.
“Great job Brian for supporting a bunch of cop killers,” the officer said to him.
The town attorney filed a June 22 notice that states the town’s intent to ask to dismiss the lawsuit.
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