On Wednesday the Town of Needham released the full confidential settlement agreement reached earlier this year between Needham and Marvin Henry, who alleged civil rights violations by the Needham Police Department.
The settlement required the town to pay $100,000 to Henry, of which all but a $7,500 deductible was paid by the town’s insurer.
The terms of the agreement require that all sworn officers within the Needham Police Department (NPD) receive in-person training for the next three years on the topics of implicit bias, de-escalation and cultural competency. The NPD also “shall amend the existing Bias Free Policing Policy to address implicit bias.”
At Tuesday’s Select Board meeting, Chair Marianne Cooley read a statement noting, “The Police Department has met or exceeded all of the training commitments included in the agreement with Mr. Henry.”
The settlement is the culmination of events that began on January 25, 2020, when Needham Police handcuffed and detained Henry for approximately a half-hour after he was identified as a suspect in a shoplifting incident at the Needham Heights CVS on Highland Avenue – an ID that proved to be erroneous.
Henry eventually filed a complaint in federal court in July 2021, alleging civil rights violations and various tort claims. “Mr. Henry’s only ‘crime’ was being Black while shopping in a white neighborhood,” the complaint read.
After more than a year of pre-trial activity, the case was referred for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). On January 6, the U.S. District Court docket announced the settlement and an order of dismissal.
At its Feb. 14 meeting of this year, the Select Board issued a joint statement along with Henry’s attorneys from Boston-based Lawyers for Civil Rights, announcing that the case had been settled, and that Henry had received monetary compensation, but the details would remain confidential at Henry’s request.
Attorney Peter Duffy of the firm Pollack Solomon Duffy LLP made a request for the agreement to be released in full. After initially declining the request citing concerns for Henry’s privacy, the town released the agreement, but with the monetary award redacted.
Duffy petitioned the Secretary of State’s office to release the monetary portions of the settlement agreement. The petition was granted despite objections from both Needham Town Counsel and the Lawyers for Civil Rights, leading to the release of the full settlement agreement.
At Tuesday evening’s Select Board meeting, Chair Marianne Cooley reiterated the Board’s rationale for withholding the settlement amount as part of “the town’s objective to honor Mr. Henry’s desire to avoid public comment and put the matter behind him to the greatest extent possible.”
The Select Board statement noted that Henry’s attorneys informed Town Counsel Chris Heep that “the release of the settlement sum would constitute an unwarranted invasion of Mr. Henry’s privacy.”
The Public Records Division was not persuaded by that argument and ordered that an unredacted settlement agreement be released with the monetary damages included.
The Select Board declined to provide additional comment, stating that “further revelation beyond a response to the requestors is not required by law and would therefore be inconsistent with the terms of the Settlement Agreement.”
Timothy Perla, one of Marvin Henry’s attorneys, said, “I don’t have any authority to make any comment. I hope you appreciate he values his privacy.”