At 6:30 pm on October 15, an off-duty Brookline Police Officer, identified by witnesses as Officer Robert Collins, was involved in a confrontation with 4 Brookline High students. Witnesses who observed the altercation described it as seemingly motivated by clear prejudicial attitudes.
Officer Collins, traveling with his wife and daughter, was parking his car directly in front of the school’s entrance when the incident occurred. According to sources interviewed by this publication, 2 of the students in the group were standing in the street by the curb when Officer Collins drove into the space at an accelerated speed. Witnesses say the space is cut off from vehicular traffic during school hours, and is an area students are used to occupying. When one of the students in the group informed Collins his car almost hit her, Collins told her she was in the street and an argument ensued.
Reportedly Collins’ daughter, who is in her twenties, got out of the vehicle and called the student who questioned her father “a f&#king ho”, and then threatened her with physical violence. Officer Collins, while shouting back and forth with the students, identified himself as a Brookline Police Officer and threatened to report them to the police. It is also reported that Officer Collin’s wife got out of the car in an attempt to control her daughter and mediate the situation, while advising the students not to “play the race card”. According to witnesses, Officer Collins also instructed his daughter to get back in the car, but at no time attempted to calm the situation, address, apologize or distance himself from his daughter’s actions other than to threaten the students with arrest.
October 15 was Back to School night at BHS, an event where BHS parents walk through a simulated school schedule. Reportedly, the school grounds were busy at the time of the incident with Back to School activity, athletic events and practices. Witnesses reported close to 10 teachers were nearby supporting the “Teaching Not Testing” movement. Reportedly, several students and teachers witnessed the incident. BHS teacher Lindsey Davis came to the scene to help calm the situation. Another Brookline officer, identified as “Officer Tim” by witnesses, happened to be picking up his son, a BHS student, from football practice at the time. He also tried to help according to sources. Witnesses say Officer Collins gave the students the impression that Officer Tim arrived in response to Collins reporting the incident.
The incident ended with the parties going their separate ways. The students involved were reported to be visibly upset by what transpired. The students were between 14-17 years old.
After the incident, counselors from Steps to Success, where 3 of the 4 students involved are members were contacted. Word also got to the school administration, which was present for Back to School night.
Headmaster Deb Holman commented, “The night of the incident, Brookline High administrators left their evening duties at Back To School Night to begin responding. The next day, I worked with school administration and students to connect with the Brookline police to uncover what happened. Our main initial concern was student well-being.”
Headmaster Holman informed Brookline PD of the incident. Detective Lieutenant Paul Campbell of the Brookline Police Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, as part of his investigation into the matter, interviewed the students multiple times on October 16 during school hours in Headmaster Holman’s office with the Headmaster present. During the following weekend, Lt. Campbell also visited with the parents of the students involved.
Lieutenant Philip Harrington, usually assigned to handle matters with the press, was not on duty the week of October 23. As a result, Lieutenant Campbell responded to inquiries. According to his statement, “The incident involved an off duty police officer who was going to Brookline High with his family to see his daughter (a BHS student) play volleyball. The kids were standing partially obstructing an open parking space, and felt the off duty officer had pulled in to this space too quickly. This resulted in an argument. No allegation of any crime. I have spoken to the students involved and also touched base with their parents. The investigation is under way. Under the circumstances I don’t think it would be proper for me to comment any further.” It is unknown whether Brookline PD was informed that Collin’s older daughter, reportedly in her twenties, allegedly threatened the minors.
Brookline PD did not verify the identity of the officer involved as of the date of this publication; several witnesses identified him as Officer Robert Collins. Our Internet research revealed that in 2014, Officer Collins received a Letter of Commendation and a Certificate of Commendation for his on duty actions. Officer Collins is one of 136 sworn officers of the Brookline PD. It should be assumed Officer Collins received unconscious bias training from Brookline PD. As this is a subject long known to be of vital importance to Police Chief Daniel O’Leary, training has been made available to both officers and supervisors on the force.
When asked about the situation, Lloyd Gellineau, Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations and Brookline’s Chief Diversity Officer commented, “”Although the incident has not been formally presented to the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations, the Office is very interested in seeing an appropriate resolution to this matter. The fact that this incident occurred at school and fueled (not defused) by adults is very concerning. Parents need to know that their kids are safe at school and not exposed to these types of situations.”
As if the date of this publication, no apology has been made to the students from Officer Collins or Brookline PD, who are still investigating the matter.
~ Harvey Bravman, Publisher