Retired Black State Trooper Awarded Nearly $1.3 Million

A Black retired Massachusetts state trooper is being awarded almost $1.3 million after suffering years of discrimination while working on the security detail for Deval Patrick, who was the state’s first Black governor from 2007 to 2015. 

In a complaint filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, Sgt. Cleveland Coats outlined years of incidents that included being denied requests for continuing education while White counterparts were granted such perks. Coats also claims a failure of his White colleagues to practice teamwork, which caused him to underperform and prompted criticisms from supervisors. He says he also endured racially tinged taunts from colleagues and supervisors. One supervisor insisted on calling Coats “Grady,” an elderly, ne’er-do-well character from the TV show “Sanford and Son.” When Coats asked the supervisor to stop, the supervisor suggested that Coats retire, according to the commission report. 

Coats, who is actually now retired, was removed from Patrick’s Executive Protection Unit in 2013. He alleges the move was due to his race and age. Coats was born in 1957. As a result of his claims, the commission awarded him a judgment that has grown to $1.29 million, the Boston Globe reported. 

“Complainant’s treatment stands in stark contrast to the manner in which younger, Caucasian males were treated in the (Executive Protection Unit),” commission hearing officer Betty Waxman wrote.

Waxman noted that Coats was “ousted” from the unit in spite of a “spotless” disciplinary record and “outstanding” performance evaluations.

The former governor, however, isn’t buying it and balked at the notion that Coats was removed because of his race, writing on Aug. 30th to current Gov. Charlie Baker that this was not the case, the Globe reports. Patrick’s letter could serve as new evidence in the case, according to the Globe.

The Executive Protection Unit team was “racially diverse and remained so after Coats’ transfer, Patrick wrote in the letter. “Too often claims of racial discrimination, let alone findings to that effect, go unaddressed or unremedied,” he said, adding that the environment in Coats’ working group was “appropriate, professional, and warm.”

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Coats had a 32-year career with the Massachusetts State Police.

He graduated sixth in his class at the Massachusetts State Police Training Academy in 1983, according to the commission report. He worked as a canine officer for 18 years until promotion to sergeant in 1995. Coats volunteered to serve on Patrick’s security detail when Patrick was a candidate for governor in 2006 and expressed interest in working with Patrick’s Executive Protection Unit when Patrick was elected. He was brought in at Patrick’s request and started in 2007. 

Shortly after, the problems on the security detail started, according to Coats’ complaint. 

Coats was made permanent only after he complained that a White officer, who was hired to the detail after him, was made permanent. Coats testified that his request to attend a week-long course on governors security was denied, while White colleagues were permitted to attend. A commander would schedule meetings at times when Coats could not attend. When Coats complained that colleagues were failing at duties that should have been performed in conjunction with his duties, he was ignored, he said.

Patrick’s letter, however, suggested there may have been other issues with Coats. He described Coats as “an able and accomplished member of the detail, whom I liked personally. However, he seemed ill-at-ease with the frequent and significant public engagement that was a part of how we did the job.”

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