When it comes to intoxication, there’s tipsy and then there’s incapacitated. And that distinction appears to be the root of a lawsuit brought by around 1,000 people, including a Concord Police officer, against Foxboro and its police chief.
In a highly publicized class action lawsuit filed against Foxboro Police Chief Edward O’Leary and the town, about 1,000 people are alleging they were unlawfully held in protective custody. The suit, filed by Boston attorneys Howard Friedman and David Milton, alleges concertgoers were placed in protective custody unlawfully for being intoxicated, but not incapacitated, reports multiple media outlets, including WBZ.
One of those individuals is Concord Police Officer Michael Burgess, who was allegedly placed into protective custody by Foxborough Police officers at the 2011 New England Country Music Festival at Gillette Stadium.
“I sat at that bench with my hand handcuffed to a bar for six hours,” Burgess, told WBZ. “I did nothing wrong that night. … I was not disorderly. I was not argumentative. I basically complied with what they wanted me to do. I was in full control of myself.”
In an email to Patch, Concord Police Chief Barry Neal said the department was aware of the officer’s involvement in the suit.
“This is a private matter not involving the Concord Police Department or his employment here,” Neal wrote. “He is entitled to exercise his rights and we have no further comment regarding this matter.”
The lawsuit, according to the Law Offices of Howard Friedman, alleges that it is unconstitutional to take people into custody simply because they are perceived to be under the influence of alcohol, Foxborough Patch reported.
"Protective custody is a joke," Timothy Dutton, one of the original plaintiffs, said. "I was detained in a cell with a man who had spent one year in jail for attempted murder for stabbing someone eight times. There were plenty of other innocent people like me in this lockup."
The civil lawsuit seeks money damages for violations of the class members’ constitutional rights, as well as an end to the policy. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court in Boston, is called Paul Weldner et al., v. Edward O’Leary, et al., C.A. No. 12-11771-DPW.
A copy of the original complaint can be found here.