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Class Action Lawsuit Against Foxboro, Police Chief Grows

By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV
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FOXBORO (CBS) – Nearly 1,000 people claim police officers violated their civil rights by placing them in protective custody simply because it appeared they had been drinking. One of those people is a police officer.

“I sat at that bench with my hand handcuffed to a bar for six hours,” says Michael Burgess.

Burgess is a local police officer who was placed into protective custody by Foxboro Police. He was taken out of line as he walked into a concert at Gillette Stadium in 2011.

“I did nothing wrong that night,” says Burgess. “I was not disorderly. I was not argumentative. I basically complied with what they wanted me to do. I was in full control of myself.”

Burgess is now one of the nearly 1,000 people suing Foxboro and its police chief for its policy which lawyers claim places people in protective custody simply because they might appear tipsy. The law says you must be incapacitated to be detained.

When Bruce Springsteen played Gillette Stadium and when Country Fest occurred last August, hundreds of people ended up court. Some were arrested, hundreds more placed in custody.

Attorney Howard Friedman filed the class lawsuit.

“They are taking people into custody who are simply intoxicated, who are not a danger to property of person and holding them far longer than they should,” says Friedman.

Friedman say the town’s policy is basically unlawful arrest.

Lindsey Schmidt is also suing.

She says she stumbled while wearing a new pair of cowboy boots and that was it.

“At that time, the police officer took my purse and my phone,” says Schmidt. “My purse had my concert ticket and my friend’s. He would not allow her to have her concert ticket either. He took both of them.”

Last summer, Foxboro’s Chief O’Leary defended the policy saying alcohol consumption causes situations to spiral.

WBZ spoke with attorney Doug Louison who represents Foxboro and its police chief. He says the town’s policy is constitutional and carefully thought out. He says the town was recently sued after two women died in a drunken driving crash after leaving a concert parking lot.

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