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    Brookline police officers allege racist remarks

    BROOKLINE — Town officials will hire an independent investigator to review complaints made by two Brookline police officers who say they have been the targets of discrimination within the Police Department.

    The officers told the Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Relations Commission about their experiences during a meeting last week, said Board of Selectmen chairman Neil Wishinsky.

    “This is something we take very seriously,” Wishinsky told the Globe on Wednesday.

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    In a video of the meeting posted to Twitter, Officer Prentice Pilot told the commission that on Dec. 4, a commanding officer used a racial epithet and told him to do “jumping jacks for me, and I’ll put in a good word for you.” Pilot has been on the force for at least 16 years.

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    Pilot said he was in uniform and had pulled up in his police cruiser alongside the commanding officer to speak with him when the comment was allegedly made.

    Pilot did not return calls for comment Wednesday.

    Another officer, who was not identified in the video, told the town commission, “As a black man I don’t feel safe working in this town. I’ve had racial comments said to me from supervisor to fellow patrolmen.”

    Wishinsky said the allegations were deeply concerning.

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    “Discrimination or retaliation in the workplace on the basis of race or other protected class or characteristic will not be tolerated in Brookline,” Wishinsky said in a statement made during a public meeting Tuesday night. “Any employee who is found responsible for such conduct will be swiftly and appropriately disciplined.”

    Under the town’s discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation policy, the Human Resources Department will designate an independent outside investigator, who is not a town employee, to review the complaints, Wishinsky said.

    Brookline Police Chief Daniel O’Leary also initiated an investigation into the complaints and has tapped an outside consultant “to assist with assessing the overall climate of the department” according to a statement on the department’s website.

    “The Police Department and all of our members are deeply concerned about the allegations of improper conduct made by two of our minority officers,” O’Leary said in the statement. “At the time the allegations were made, the Police Department promptly initiated investigations and took steps to address issues that were raised.”

    O’Leary was not available for further comment.

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    The consultant will reach out to other minority officers to listen to any concerns they may have in the workplace, Wishinsky said.

    “These allegations, though disturbing, will be dealt with and should not take away from the outstanding work the department and our members do on a daily basis,” O’Leary said in the statement.

    Wishinsky said the board will hold a public meeting on the issue Jan. 5.

    Dozens of residents attended a Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday clutching signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and demanded an opportunity to speak in support of the two officers.

    But in a video of the meeting obtained by the Globe, Wishinsky told the crowd that he would not be taking public comments since no one had signed up to speak as of the previous Friday, the deadline to get on the list.

    Those in attendance took to the podium anyway and board members walked out of the meeting, disappearing for 26 minutes as people called for an investigation into the complaints.

    “Don’t run away, don’t turn your back on us,” said one woman. “Approach the problem.”

    Another woman called for the board to support the officers.

    “There’s a more personal issue that affects every single person in this town,” the woman said. “Every single one of us depends on the police officers who are serving us. . . . If our police officers do not feel safe, if they do not feel that their superiors, their comrades have their back, they cannot protect us.”

    Jan Ransom can be reached
    at jan.ransom@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Jan_Ransom.