Tracy Jan, Boston Globe, Aug. 6, 2009
A second black Harvard professor accused the Cambridge police of racism yesterday in wrongfully arresting him outside his home nearly three years ago.
S. Allen Counter, a prominent Harvard Medical School professor and head of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations, spoke about his arrest on assault and battery charges in an editorial published yesterday with The Bay State Banner. The disclosure follows last month’s high-profile arrest of renowned African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Counter’s attorney, Ozell Hudson Jr., told the Globe yesterday that Counter is considering his legal options over the manner he says he was treated after he complied with a request to step outside his house in December 2006 when police arrived to investigate a call by his former wife. She reported to police that Counter had tried to push their teenage daughter out of a moving car during an argument.
Counter said he had not previously publicized the arrest because he feared that police would harass him and his family. But he told Harvard colleagues about the incident and said he felt he had been mistreated because he is black. Counter said he was not told why police were at his home nor why he was being arrested.
In recent years, he said, it has become a common belief among the black community at Harvard that they should stay put when police come to the door.
“The word around Harvard is never step outside your house with these guys,” Counter said in a phone interview. “We advise people not to step out. You call an attorney and stay in your house.”
It is unclear whether Counter’s experience factored into Gates’ decision to initially remain inside his home during his run-in with Crowley.
“I was polite, and yet police lied and said I was loud, just as they did with Professor Gates,” Counter said yesterday.
Counter collapsed at the police station because of a heart condition and was transported to Cambridge Hospital, where he said he was handcuffed to a hospital bed all night while a police officer stood guard in his room. He was ultimately acquitted of the assault and battery charges during an October 2007 trial.
“I feel this is a case of racial and criminal harassment on the part of police,” Counter said.