A black police officer who won a federal ruling that the Massachusetts State Police had denied him entry to their training academy because of his race filed a motion this week to hold the department in contempt for failing to comply with the court’s order to admit him to the next available academy “without precondition.”
A federal jury gave Orlando Riley, a New Bedford police officer, a $130,000 discrimination award in 2018, but he pushed further and asked US District Judge Denise J. Casper, who had presided over the case, to force the department to admit him to the Recruit Training Troop, which she ordered in April.
Riley filed the contempt motion Thursday in US District Court in Boston after a commanding officer e-mailed him on July 12 giving him two possible dates when he could take a required fitness test along with instructions to complete an application and physician’s form.
Riley sent a copy of Casper’s decision to the officer, but got no response, according to the motion. Riley attempted to discuss the issue with the head of the State Police’s human resource office, but she declined to speak with him, according to the motion.
Riley argued that he had completed all the requirements for academy candidates by 2011, citing an April 26 court order that he had completed all the requirements except a background investigation, which “a jury has now ruled resulted in his denial to the 80th RTT because of his race.”
The contempt motion states that the State Police request for Riley to complete the fitness test and fill out the application and other documents goes against Casper’s “clear” and “not ambiguous” ruling that said he should enter “the next available Massachusetts State Police Recruit Training Troop (RTT) Academy without precondition.”
Ellen J. Messing, Riley’s attorney, said her client is disappointed with the State Police’s effort to have him fulfill requirements he had already completed, contrary to the court’s ruling that he be admitted without preconditions.
“Nothing should stand between him and getting into the academy,” Messing said. “He shouldn’t have to repeat the steps he’s already taken.”
State Police spokesman David Procopio said in an e-mail Friday afternoon that the department will file a response by the court’s Aug. 1 deadline.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Maura Healey deferred to the State Police for comment. The State Police have been in consultation about Casper’s order with Healey’s office, which is reviewing the ruling.
Riley had excelled on the State Police entrance exam and passed required health screenings but was disqualified in the interview process. He alleged in his 2015 lawsuit that the white trooper who conducted his background investigation treated him differently than white applicants, denigrated his neighborhood, and expressed disbelief that he didn’t gamble.
State Police officials had argued in a statement earlier this month that Riley was deceptive during the application process and attempted to conceal embarrassing parts of his past, but said they did not intend to appeal the district’s court decision.
In that statement, State Police indicated Riley would be “included in an upcoming group of potential trainees who will undergo qualification testing for entry into the 85th Recruit Training Troop.” In Thursday’s motion, Riley argued this statement was “inconsistent” with Casper’s ruling that be admitted without any preconditions.
Riley is seeking a court order blocking the State Police from imposing any preconditions to his admission to the academy, requesting that they be fined until they comply with the court order, and that they cover costs and attorneys’ fees.
Aidan Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.