The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed an arbitrator’s ruling that officer David Williams did not use excessive force when he placed an off-duty Middlesex deputy sheriff in a chokehold. Williams will get five years’ back pay.
A Boston police officer fired five years ago for nearly choking an unarmed man into unconsciousness and then dismissing it to investigators as a “bear hug” can return to work with full back pay, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled, the Boston Herald reports. The court affirmed an arbitrator’s 2013 ruling that officer David Williams did not use excessive force when he placed an off-duty Middlesex deputy sheriff in a chokehold. Williams, the arbitrator found, was wrongfully terminated in 2012 by then-Police Commissioner Edward Davis. The court faulted the city for not spelling out in its own rules that chokeholds are a prohibited use of excessive force, saying that if they had, “an arbitrator who found a choke hold reasonable would have exceeded his authority.”
Williams, 54, joined the department in 1991. He has not returned to the job since his termination, as the dispute between the city and the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association ran its legal course. This is the second time he’s been off the job for allegations that he used excessive force. The last time, he returned to work with a reported $500,000 in back pay after a 1995 near-fatal beating of a plainclothes officer mistaken for a murder suspect. The city settled a federal lawsuit brought by Williams’ accuser, Michael O’Brien, for $1.4 million.