Walpole police implement new training in wake of bias suit
As part of its settlement with a man who claims he was racially profiled, the Walpole Police Department announced last week it will implement new training techniques and best practices, including implicit bias training, for its officers.
The department also paid unspecified damages to John-Paul Wahnon, who was stopped by police last year and was represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice.
On August 13, 2016, after Wahnon left a shopping center in Walpole, Massachusetts, a police officer followed him for approximately 15 minutes as he drove to his mother’s house in Westwood, Massachusetts. Moments before he entered Westwood, Wahnon was stopped by Walpole police. He was removed from his vehicle and frisked, and his car was searched. He later filed a complaint with the Walpole Police Department, alleging racial profiling.
Wahnon is a professional career counselor who has worked for multi-national corporations in New York and Los Angeles, as well as for the commissioner of Major League Soccer.
Walpole Police Department Chief John F. Carmichael issued a public apology to Wahnon.
“On behalf of the Walpole Police Department, I extend a sincere apology to Mr. John Paul Wahnon for his experience with our department,” the statement reads. “At the Walpole Police Department, our core mission is to treat all citizens equally. In doing so, we strive to meet the four pillars of procedural justice: fairness, impartiality, voice, and transparency. When a citizen finds these core tenants were not met, our legitimacy as a police department is weakened.”
A Lawyers’ Committee attorney praised the department’s settlement as an example of substantive police reform.
“Walpole’s decision to implement bias training is an excellent example of how cities and police departments can respond to issues of racial inequity,” said Sophia Hall, a staff attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee representing Wahnon.
Hall said that the Lawyers’ Committee will encourage other local police departments in the Commonwealth to follow the town’s lead in adopting proactive reforms that ensure appropriate treatment of all citizens of the Commonwealth.
In addition to the Lawyers’ Committee, Wahnon was also represented pro bono by Colin Van Dyke at Anderson & Kreiger and Erica Coray at Mintz Levin.
Material from a Lawyers’ Committee press release was used in this report.