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Detective demoted: Scrutinize superiors, too

The Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers is charging that the recent demotion of a Boston police officer is rooted in the “double standard faced by minority officers in relation to discipline matters.’’ Yet it appears that the tough disciplinary action against Jerome Hall-Brewster was more than warranted. Similar scrutiny should be applied to his superiors.

This week, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis stripped Hall-Brewster of his detective ranking after determining through an internal investigation that the officer had failed to follow up on a September 2012 assault on a woman in Roxbury. The suspect in that earlier case, Edwin Alemany, will be charged with the subsequent July 23 abduction and murder of South Boston resident Amy Lord.

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Race appears to play no factor whatsoever in Hall-Brewster’s demotion. On the contrary, the action was taken only after Internal Affairs investigators determined that the officer had reached the absurd conclusion that he lacked probable cause to arrest Alemany in the 2012 case. A wallet with Alemany’s identification had been found at the site of the attack. What more would a detective need to pursue a case aggressively?

There is, however, the potential for workplace injustice in this case. As a rule, detectives do not make unilateral decisions about the adequacy of evidence in a serious assault case. Sergeant detectives and lieutenants routinely review such decisions as part of the case management system. Hall-Brewster’s supervisors are scheduled to return from vacation on Monday, according to a police spokeswoman. And when they do, Internal Affairs investigators must be just as thorough in examining their roles in the botched case. If found equally culpable, the supervisors should expect to face equally tough disciplinary measures.

The public is looking for accountability, not a scapegoat.

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