‘I’ve Waited More Than Long Enough’
Shaun Joseph filed a civil rights lawsuit against a Boston Police officer after losing confidence in the department’s investigation of his original complaint.
A Medford software engineer, fed up that more than a year has passed since he filed a complaint accusing a Boston Police officer of fabricating an arrest report, is suing the officer after losing confidence that the BPD’s Internal Affairs Division is taking his case seriously.
Shaun Joseph, 33, filed a citizen complaint April 3, 2013, against Sergeant David L. O’Connor. O’Connor arrested Joseph as he protested a book reading by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Sergeant O’Connor’s report claimed Joseph used a “karate-chop like maneuver” to assault him and then resisted arrest. Witness video showed that never happened. Joseph said he hasn’t heard from Internal Affairs in months. It’s been more than a year after he filed the complaint and it’s unresolved.
“I feel like I’ve waited more than long enough,” said Joseph, whose story is featured in the April issue of Boston magazine. “The idea that this would just sit and this officer would get away with it because BPD just sits on it is just wrong.”
Joseph’s lawsuit marks the latest sign of trouble for BPD’s embattled Internal Affairs Division, which has long been criticized for slow, superficial investigations.
Joseph’s complaint is among hundreds of allegations awaiting resolution. Experts say most complaints against officers should be resolved between 90 and 180 days. As we outlined in our previous story, timeliness is important when resolving complaints, experts say, because interviews should be done when witnesses’ memories are fresh.
The Boston Police Department does not comment on active Internal Affairs investigations, nor does the BPD comment on ongoing civil matters, according to BPD spokesman Sgt. Michael McCarthy.
In the civil rights lawsuit he filed March 14 in U.S. District Court in Boston, Joseph alleged Sergeant O’Connor “unlawfully arrested” him and “pursued a malicious prosecution based on fabricated criminal charges.”
The lawsuit lays out a timeline of events that begins in 2011 when Joseph helped organize a September 26 protest of former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s reading of his book, Known and Unknown: A Memoir. According to the lawsuit, O’Connor approached a female protester and told her she could not use a bullhorn without a permit. When the bullhorn was passed to a male protester, O’Connor ran over and attempted to seize it. Joseph said he then went over to O’Connor, put his hands on the bullhorn, and said he was a protest organizer and would take control of the bullhorn so no one else would use it. The lawsuit asserts O’Connor did not have a warrant or probable cause to arrest Joseph or legal cause to seize him.
O’Connor filed his answer to Joseph’s complaint earlier this month, and he denied Joseph’s account of the arrest.
O’Connor’s own account can be found in the incident report that he filed at the time, in which he claimed Joseph used a “karate-chop like maneuver” to strike the police officer in the right forearm; that Joseph then resisted arrest by placing his arms underneath him and did not remove his arms without the assistance of other officers; and that O’Connor needed help from multiple police units to arrest Joseph. Joseph’s complaint says that this is all a fabrication, which O’Connor denies.
O’Connor’s attorney, Hugh R. Curran, declined to comment for this story.
Witness video in Joseph’s criminal case showed Joseph did not use a karate chop on O’Connor, that he submitted immediately to be handcuffed by O’Connor, and that no other police units were needed to subdue him. The case was dismissed on March 7, 2013.
After the incident, Joseph filed a complaint—as citizens are encouraged by the police to do when they believe they have a beef with an officer. Myong Joun, Joseph’s lawyer, filed the complaint on April 3, 2013, a day after meeting with Internal Affairs chief Superintendent Frank Mancini. Still, a BPD investigator did not acknowledge the complaint until November.
When the investigator, Sgt. Det. Jose Lozano, last contacted Joun, on December 6, it was to instruct him to view for his own “edification” videos he had provided to Internal Affairs months earlier. Joseph was appalled.
“I have no confidence in the system,” Joseph said. “We submitted our complaint, and then we get an email back with a link back to the videos we sent (to the investigator) but with a snide message…The investigator clearly hasn’t looked at what we sent him. It’s not a real investigation.”
“There is nothing good that can come from filing an Internal Affairs complaint,” Joun said. “I am completely disillusioned. We’ve wasted all this time. We’ve given them the opportunity, and they have done nothing with it. I’m frustrated because they need to take the appropriate steps to send messages to line officers about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.”
“Officer O’Connor crossed a line,” Joseph said. “He needs to be held accountable.”
Tom Mashberg contributed to this report.