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Former Somerville police officer admits to pepper spraying handcuffed man

A former Somerville police officer admitted in Cambridge District Court that there were “sufficient facts” that he used pepper spray on a handcuffed man, Somerville police said Friday.

Michael McGrath had been charged with assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, Somerville police said in a statement.

The judge continued the matter without a finding and placed McGrath on probation for one year with the condition that he not seek employment as a police officer, the Middlesex district attorney’s office said in a separate statement.

At the time of the incident the man “posed no threat” to McGrath and “did not physically resist or engage in assaultive behavior that would justify the use of the pepper spray,” prosecutors said.


Surveillance footage of the Oct. 1, 2019 incident released by city officials appears to show McGrath pepper-spraying a handcuffed suspect and shoving him into a prisoner transport van, the Globe reported.

McGrath had also served as president of his union, the Globe reported.

McGrath was initially placed on unpaid leave, police said. The Somerville Police Professional Standards Division conducted an internal investigation into the incident and found McGrath responsible for several violations of Departmental Policies and Rules and Regulations including the use of unnecessary force.

He was then suspended without pay for a period of five days with a recommendation for additional discipline up to and including termination of his employment, police said. McGrath resigned prior to the date of the suspension taking effect.

Acting Somerville Police Chief Charles Femino said in the statement that while “the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers perform their duties with full professionalism, those who are alleged to have committed an act of misconduct will be held accountable.”

“The City must be able to rely on the good judgment of its officers using force only when warranted by the circumstances as defined in Departmental policies,” Femino said. ”The public must have confidence that officers discharge their duties with all due care and restraint. The events depicted in the findings and related evidence fall disappointingly short of the Department’s expectations and do not represent the values of the Somerville Police Department.”


Adam Sennott can be reached at adam.sennott@globe.com.