A Black cook in the Freshman Union said yesterday that he will file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that the University Police racially discriminated against him in their investigation of a small money theft at the Union.
Phillip Wright, a 42-year-old cook who has worked five years for Harvard, said the police focused most heavily on him because he is Black and a cook, rather than questioning nearby Harvard students.
But Jack W. Morse, captain of the University Police, said yesterday that it was just "routine police work," and that although Wright did not commit the theft, a witness placed him at the scene of the theft.
A small amount of money, reportedly a bag containing less than $15 in quarters. was stolen from the game room in the Union at about 10 a.m. Thursday morning. Morse said that the case is still active
"They only wanted Black cooks or Black people," Wright said about the Harvard police's investigation. "There were all these other people in the pinball room," he added.
Wright said that in addition to hurting him personally, the incident defamed him in the eyes of his colleagues The police came up to question him in front of his co-workers, he said "Everyone knew what was happening," Wright said, adding that workers were jokingly asking him all day if they could borrow $15 in quarters
"He feels they focused in on him because he was a Black cook." James Burke, Union shop steward for the Freshman Union's food service workers, said yesterday He added that Wright's union has urged him to file discrimination and defamation charges with the NLRB
In addition, Wright said he has begun filing a complaint against Harvard police with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Morse said, however, that the police merely followed the lead of a witness who had seen a Black man "apparently with cook's regalia on. "He said that the student witness, an employee at the gameroom, had voluntarily opened his own knapsack for police search and that the police followed up all other leads.
Wright voluntarily allowed the police to search his locker before they halted their investigation, Morse said.
The captain further explained that the police did a fair job of investigating the theft, and that Wright's presence at the scene made him a logical person to question. "I really don't see how he was singled out," he added