Brockton Sergeant alleges retaliation for backing mayor’s opponent

Brockton Sergeant Kenneth LeGrice alleged that he was transferred from his position in the administrative division to the uniform patrol division because of his public support for the mayor’s opponent. LeGrice claimed that the mayor strong-armed the chief of police to make the transfer after the mayor won re-election.

Sergeant LeGrice filed suit in U.S. District Court alleging the city violated his civil rights by changing his job and shift in retaliation for supporting the mayor’s opponent in 2007.

“He is not a complainer,” LeGrice’s attorney, Timothy J. Perry, said prior to the decision. “He tried to work this out. He is not happy that he has to make these allegations.”

LeGrice was seeking $250,000 in damages, claiming his civil rights were violated when he was transferred after backing the losing candidate, Jass Stewart. He named the mayor, Police Chief William Conlon and the city as defendants in the suit.

The City of Brockton presented evidence of the need for a re-organization within the department due to the illness of one captain and the addition of another. The plaintiff’s supervisor, also a captain, had suggested to the chief that the plaintiff had less work in his position in the administrative division due to the recent promotion of a lieutenant to captain and had recommended the plaintiff for a supervisory role in the detective division.

The chief decided that another sergeant – whose family also had supported the mayor’s opponent – was better suited for the detective position and that the plaintiff’s skills would be best utilized in a supervisory role as sergeant in the uniform patrol division.

The defendants introduced evidence that, upon being given the option by the chief to choose his shift, the plaintiff chose the 4 p.m. to midnight shift. Prior to the transfer, the plaintiff had been on the 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift. The transfer allowed him to earn an additional 10 percent in salary.

The defendants were able to show that the plaintiff’s income rose considerably after his transfer and that his supervisory responsibilities increased after his transfer. Additionally, the plaintiff was not forced to miss any practices or games in his secondary job as head softball coach at a local college as a result of the shift change.

According to The Enterprise News, “[t]his is the second federal suit filed in recent years alleging a Brockton police officer was transferred because he backed a losing mayoral candidate.

Thomas Enos, a Brockton detective, won a civil suit in 2004 that alleged he was transferred into the uniform division because he backed Martha Crowell, who was running against then-mayor John T. Yunits. A jury awarded Enos $300,000 in punitive and $50,625 in emotional damages. That award was tossed out in a later negotiated settlement with the city’s insurance company for $275,000.”

In the same article, written by Maureen Boyle, “LeGrice alleges that about a week before he was transferred, he was given a certificate from the mayor, thanking him for his years of service. Attached to the certificate was a Brockton Police Department envelope with what was described as a “faux note” inside.

The note, from “Jim,” indicated the mayor “holds no grudges, but don’t ever (expletive) with him again,” according to the suit.

Perry said the note may have been “someone’s idea of a joke, but I think it was understood that something was at play here.”

After less than three hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant chief, and the court thereafter entered judgment for the mayor and city.

-From Mass Lawyers Weekly and The Enterprise

About Attorney John J. MacLaughlan

John MacLaughlan is Massachusetts licensed attorney as well as a Boston police officer. John is currently assigned to the Youth Violence Strike Force (Gang Unit). He is a graduate of the Massachusetts School of Law with a concentration in Labor Law. He holds a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell as well as a Bachelors Degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. John has taught Defensive Tactics, Firearms, Use of Force, Applied Patrol Procedures, and Police Response to Active Shooters to sworn police officers and police academy recruits. Prior to becoming a Boston Police Officer, John served for 9 years as a police officer in Lowell, where he was a member of the Police Dive Team and Patrol Rifle Team.
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