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BOSTON — The Harvard University Police Department passed over a black officer for a number of promotions and superiors routinely made racist remarks about blacks and Latinos, according to a federal lawsuit.

The complaint by Officer George Pierce, a veteran patrolman who is black, said he applied for open sergeant positions a number of times only to be passed over for less-qualified, non-black employees. The reason Pierce didn’t get promoted was his race, the lawsuit alleged, citing various instances when Pierce sought a sergeant spot but was turned down.

“Throughout Pierce’s employment at Harvard, Harvard and the department have created and maintained a pervasive racially-biased environment within the department,” the lawsuit said.

The complaint also alleges that Pierce had to endure supervisory officers making racial comments about blacks dominating sports and a derogatory slur describing a Latino police officer.

The suit, which was filed late last month in U.S. District Court in Boston, seeks unspecified damages.

Kevin Galvin, a Harvard spokesman, said the school doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Pierce has worked as a Harvard patrol officer since 2002 and is a former police officer in the town of Arlington.

Ellen Messing, Pierce’s attorney, said her client has about 30 years of experience in law enforcement and just wants a promotion he feels he’s earned. “He believes that he can contribute and he can do a good job but he’s been denied the opportunity because of his race,” Messing said.

The lawsuit comes two years after a panel was asked to look at allegations of campus police racial profiling and recommended better training and outreach to students and faculty.

The six-member committee, headed by Boston attorney Ralph Martin, an African-American and former Suffolk County district attorney, was created amid concerns Harvard police officers had unfairly stopped black students because of their race.


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