Two years after the infamous arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. outside his home, the Cambridge Police Department is back in the spotlight for another allegedly racist encounter with a Black Harvard professor.
Neuroscientist S. Allen Counter recently settled a federal discrimination claim against the police department stemming from his 2006 arrest on a domestic violence charge where he was accused of pushing his 17-year-old daughter out of a moving car. Although Counter was eventually cleared of the charges, he filed suit in 2009 over conduct he called “police abuse of power and discretion against minorities.”
In the 2009 lawsuit, Counter charged the police with false arrest, false imprisonment, infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy and malicious prosecution in violation of his constitutional rights in connection with the arrest. Counter also alleged that the arrest was part of a personal vendetta against him by a Cambridge police officer who was having a relationship with his ex-wife.
Counter sought unspecified damages and the terms of the settlement were not made public. The incident harks back to the 2009 arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Gates who was arrested by Cambridge police while trying to open the front door of his home after a neighbor called police to report suspicious behavior. When police arrived and asked for Gates’s identification to prove the home was his, he became irate and accused the officers of bias — leading to his arrest. The charges were eventually dropped but the incident drew national attention and even the ire of President Obama who famously called the officers’ actions “stupid.”
According to his website, in addition to his academic work, Counter is presently working to establish the first memorial to African-American slaves and he has petitioned Obama for the establishment of the American Slavery Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Counter is also slated to be the subject of a biopic produced by actor Will Smith due to be released later this year.