Boston Pays $2.6M To Cops Who Claimed Racial Bias In Drug Hair Tests

The lawsuit claimed that the hair test discriminated against Black people because their hair is more susceptible to false positives.

The city of Boston has agreed to pay $2.6 Million to Black law enforcement officers to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit where a hair test was used to identify drug use, the Associated Press reports.

According to the terms of the settlement, the four plaintiffs, three Black officers and cadets who were either terminated or reprimanded due to the hair testing will each receive $650,000 a piece.

Oren Sellstrom of Lawyers for Civil Rights, a nonprofit that has represented the officers, shared his excitement that the lawsuit is finally settled and how the long-lasting litigation impacted his clients.

“This settlement puts an end to a long, ugly chapter in Boston’s history,” Sellstrom told the AP. “As a result of this flawed test, our clients’ lives and careers were completely derailed. The city has finally compensated them for this grave injustice.”

"You can imagine what effect that would have to be falsely labeled in this way, and a number of officers were terminated as a result. Many had to leave the field entirely, and their dreams of being a law enforcement officer were shattered," Sellstrom added, according to local station WBUR. "It totally upended our client's lives and in the process also deprived the residents of Boston from having exemplary police officers on the force.

Jeffrey Lopes, association president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, the other plaintiff in the case, also released a statement following their victory.

“The city is still trying to make up for the loss of diversity on the police force that resulted from the use of the hair test,” Lopes said.

In 2005, the police officers filed the suit against the city claiming that the hair test discriminated against Black people because their hair is more susceptible to false positives. Since the filing of the suit, the city and the company that administered the test have denied any racial bias. In 2021, the city eliminated the test.

In a statement, Mayor Michelle Wu said “this settlement marks the end to an important process to guarantee that every officer is treated fairly.”

“Under (Police) Commissioner Michael Cox’s leadership, we are strengthening our entire department by building more trust within the department and with (the) community and supporting a workforce that reflects the communities we serve,” Wu’s statement continued.

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