Boston police reprimanded three supervisors Friday involved in a prior case tied to the accused assailant in the slaying of a 24-year-old South Boston woman this summer, in a move that drew immediate fire from a minority officers advocacy group.
The supervisors were disciplined for their role in a 2012 case that led to the demotion of Boston police Detective Jerome Hall-Brewster because of his reported failure to follow up on evidence possibly linking suspect Edwin Alemany to an alleged assault. In July, about 10 months later, Alemany was arrested and charged with kidnapping Amy Lord in South Boston, killing her, and dumping her body in Hyde Park, sparking questions about why he was not held in the prior case.
The decision to issue a written reprimand to Lieutenant Detective Patrick Cullity and oral reprimands to Timothy Horan and Thomas O’Leary, both sergeant detectives, was met with anger from the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers.
Larry Ellison, president of the association, pointed out in a phone interview Friday that the three supervisors are white, but Hall-Brewster, who was demoted to patrol officer as a result of the 2012 case, is black.
“I’m beyond outraged,” said Ellison. “It’s a double standard here.” He added: “The supervisors got a slap on the wrist, and Detective Hall-Brewster lost his rating. The supervisors were supposed to be supervising. Why didn’t they lose their rating?”
The president of the detectives’ union could not be reached for comment.
Cheryl Fiandaca, a Police Department spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that the reprimands are documented in the supervisors’ internal affairs files. Those histories are “always part of any review for promotion and [are] taken into account for all future discipline,” Fiandaca said.
She referred a reporter to a department statement announcing the reprimands when asked about Ellison’s claim of a double standard.
That statement indicated that while Hall-Brewster was the subject of a “previous internal affairs matter where similarly he failed to properly ensure a thorough investigation,” his three supervisors have no “prior disciplinary histories with the department.”
At issue is a September 2012 case in which a woman was choked on a Roxbury street until she passed out. She regained consciousness holding a wallet with an identification card belonging to Alemany. Police also recovered a bottle and hat at the crime scene, which were sent for DNA testing.
Commissioner Edward F. Davis has said that Hall-Brewster was demoted for failing to properly follow up on the case. Davis said Alemany was never arrested because Hall-Brewster decided there was not enough probable cause to bring the case to a clerk magistrate.
Hall-Brewster is fighting his demotion, and a preliminary hearing with the state Division of Administrative Law Appeals is scheduled for Friday, said his attorney, Raffi Yessayan.
Asked about Ellison’s claim that there is a double standard for Hall-Brewster and his white supervisors, Yessayan said, “As we say in law school, ‘res ipsa loquitur,’ the thing speaks for itself.”
Yessayan has defended Hall-Brewster’s handling of the 2012 case and reiterated Friday that he does not believe his client or the supervisors did anything wrong.
The Police Department, in Friday’s statement, said that Alemany remains a “person of interest” in the 2012 attack.
Noting prior department claims of probable cause to arrest Alemany in the Roxbury choking attack, Yessayan said: “Then go arrest somebody. Go charge somebody, and they haven’t.”
The bottle has come back negative for Alemany’s DNA, and Davis said in July that the hat was still being tested. It was not clear Friday if testing on the hat had been completed.
Davis has also said Hall-Brewster did not return phone and e-mail messages from the crime lab testing the evidence. Yessayan has said that his client did not return three e-mails from the lab, but promptly answered in the affirmative to a fourth message asking if he thought the items sent for testing belonged to the suspect.
In announcing reprimands for the supervisors, police said Horan and O’Leary, who had direct command over Hall-Brewster, failed “to ensure that the case was properly investigated.”
Cullity, commanding officer of detectives in what was then Hall-Brewster’s district, has been ordered to attend management training, police said.
Diversity in the department emerged as a mayoral campaign issue after Ellison’s group pledged in August to vigorously oppose any candidate who would keep Davis as commissioner, citing grievances regarding diversity in the department. Davis adamantly defended his record in that area.
Ellison’s group also sent an e-mail Friday to several elected officials, including mayoral candidates John R. Connolly and Martin J. Walsh, decrying the reprimands and saying that “Davis and [Superintendent in Chief Daniel] Linskey should leave town right away.”
The Connolly and Walsh campaigns declined to comment. Davis, who said last month that he is stepping down as commissioner, could not be reached.
Linskey said the 2012 case unfortunately “revealed some shortcomings in our investigative units. . . . Clearly there were challenges here, and we need to do better.”
He said Ellison’s group should “focus on seeing what they can do to improve safety for the citizens of Boston, instead of engaging in political rhetoric.”