Harvard Professor Reaches Settlement With Police in Discrimination Case

A Harvard professor has reached a settlement with the Cambridge Police Department in a civil federal discrimination suit that alleged he had been wrongfully detained by police after an alleged domestic dispute.

The settlement's size was not disclosed.

S. Allen Counter, a neurologist at the Harvard Medical School and director of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, filed a complaint against three employees of the City of Cambridge and the Cambridge Police Department in December 2009. In the suit, Counter claimed that he was the victim of racial discrimination when he was arrested for domestic assault in December 2006.

According to the complaint, Counter was taken into custody after his ex-wife told police that he had attempted to push his daughter, 17, out of a moving car. Counter was then charged with domestic assault but later acquitted when his daughter testified that he had not actually pushed her out of the car.

The complaint that Counter filed alleged that Cambridge police officers had performed unlawful search and seizure by arresting him without probable cause. Counter said that they had not stated the charges against him at the time of his arrest and laughed when he asked why he was being arrested. Counter did not file the suit until three years after the incident.

In January 2010, the defendants—Cambridge Police Officers William Macedo and John Fulkerson, and Cambridge City Manager Robert W. Healy—filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.

In July 2011, Counter’s case was settled and dismissed “with prejudice and without costs, without attorneys fees and waiving all rights of appeal,” according to the document filed with the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts.

“We filed this suit because we believe that I, like many other persons of minority background, are victims of police abuse of power and discretion against minorities,” Counter told The Crimson in January 2010.

Counter’s complaint was filed six months after Harvard professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr. was arrested at his home by Cambridge Police in an incident that garnered national media attention.

Counter told The Crimson last year that the Gates case was a “tragic reflection of the kind of racial profiling and hostility that African-Americans, especially men, face every day.”

Counter told The Crimson then that he and his legal team waited three years to file the discrimination complaint for many reasons, including a fear of police retaliation.

The Cambridge Police Department deferred comment to the City of Cambridge Solicitor’s Office, which did not respond to a request for comment. Counter also did not respond to a request for comment.

—Julie M. Zauzmer contributed to this story.

—Staff writer Xi Yu can be reached at xyu@college.harvard.edu.

This story has been revised to reflect the following correction.


An earlier version of the Oct. 17 article "Harvard Professor Reaches Settlement With Police in Discrimination Case" incorrectly stated that charges in the case have been dismissed. In fact, Dr. S. Allen Counter has reached a settlement with the Cambridge Police Department.


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