Appeals court restores jobs of 6 Boston officers over drug testing results

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Appeals Court has given another legal victory to six black Boston police officers who said they were fired over unreliable drug testing methods.

The court said the officers must be reinstated with back pay and benefits. The appeals court ruling upheld decisions by the state's Civil Service Commission and Superior Court.

A total of 10 officers were fired between 2001 and 2006 after testing positive for cocaine using a controversial hair test. The officers challenged the results, saying the testing method is unreliable and positive tests are more likely with African-American hair.

The court agreed, writing that a positive test is "not necessarily conclusive of ingestion."

"There was absolutely no other evidence of any drug use by any of these officers other than this laboratory in California saying they had ingested cocaine," attorney Alan Shapiro said Tuesday.

The state appeals court ruled Friday the test isn't reliable enough to be the only reason to fire an officer.

"This is not good enough to take someone's job away," Shapiro said. "And you have a test that the federal court says has a disparate impact on African-Americans. So why does the police department insist that they keep using this test?"

Sharpiro represents the Boston Police Patrolman’s Association and the 10 officers.

He told FOX25 they filed a grievance over the department's use of the test years ago and were told arbitration would only come after a judge's ruling.

"I would hope that the city and the police department takes a hard look at this and sit down with us and negotiate something that's acceptable," said Shapiro.

FOX25 reached out to the Boston Police Department. They said the decision is being reviewed by their legal department.

The city can appeal Friday's decision to the Supreme Court.

"There's still gonna be that stigma, no matter what the judge's ruling has been that somehow these people got away with using drugs," Larry Ellison, president of Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers (MAMELO), said.

MAMELO and the Lawyers' Committee for Economic Justice have brought a federal lawsuit against the city claiming the drug test is scientifically prone to create false-positives in African-American hair.

"This has been going on under the Menino administration and it continues under the Walsh administration and you have a police commissioner who doesn't want to accept the fact that people have a right to justice," Ellison said.

The court's decision upheld the termination of four other officers who tested positive for drugs.