Police Accountability

Holmes v. Garvey

Victory! On June 5, 2017, Mary Holmes and the MBTA reached an agreement settling the civil rights lawsuit, requiring payments to Ms. Holmes and her attorneys, increased transparency for MBTA policies, and improvements in the citizen complaint system. The settlement also confirms policy changes that the MBTA made while the lawsuit was pending, which sought to enhance their systems and policies to monitor MBTA officer behavior and provide aggression management training. Learn more.

Roxbury resident Mary Holmes, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and Howard Friedman, filed a civil rights lawsuit on August 19, 2015 against two MBTA police officers for police brutality and the violation of her constitutional right to free speech. Ms. Holmes was pepper-sprayed, beaten, and arrested by the officers because she spoke out to prevent MBTA police from abusing a person in her community.

In March 2014, Ms. Holmes was at the Dudley Square MBTA station in Roxbury when she saw Officer Jennifer Garvey scream at and shove another Black woman. The situation worried Ms. Holmes so she tried to calm the woman and asked Officer Garvey to stop being so aggressive. When these efforts failed, she called 9-1-1 for help. In response, Officer Garvey and her partner, Officer Alfred Trinh, pepper-sprayed Ms. Holmes in the face, beat her with a metal baton, and arrested her, handcuffing her hands behind her back while forcing her to the ground.

“The MBTA has signs everywhere telling people ‘if you see something, say something.’ This is exactly what Ms. Holmes did. She saw something wrong, and she spoke out. We need more people to follow Ms. Holmes’ lead and do the same,” said Jessie Rossman, staff attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Unfortunately, the officers’ reactions are part of a broader, troubling trend, in which police officers mistreat individuals exercising their constitutional rights. It has to stop.”

“Given the national and local conversation on racial justice and police accountability, Ms. Holmes and the ACLU hope that this lawsuit gives voice to one woman’s story of police violence and survival. We hope that this case will bring some justice and closure for Ms. Holmes, and that it will help bring fundamental changes to the way Roxbury and communities throughout Massachusetts are policed,” said Carl Williams, staff attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts.

On April 20, 2016, Mary Holmes added the MBTA as a defendant in the civil rights lawsuit she brought last August against two of the agency’s transit officers who beat her and violated her constitutional rights in 2014. In light of information obtained in discovery, Ms. Holmes’ amended complaint alleges that the transit agency allowed a policy or custom to develop within its police department of failing to properly supervise, investigate and discipline its officers.

On November 9, 2016, the Federal District Court of Massachusetts heard arguments on several issues in Holmes, including whether the case against the MBTA should be dismissed because of sovereign immunity and whether the complaint contains sufficient facts to establish a case of Monell Liability against the MBTA. In January, the Court rejected the MBTA’s motion to dismiss the case, allowing Holmes’ civil rights lawsuit to move forward.

The following videos provided by the MBTA show Mary Holmes’ March 2014 encounter with MBTA officers Jennifer Garvey and Alfred Trinh. They contain graphic content.



June 07, 2017
Boston Herald: MBTA police facing reforms in federal suit settlement
June 06, 2017
Boston Globe: MBTA settles with Roxbury woman in police brutality case
June 06, 2017
Metro: MBTA police brutality lawsuit to bring more transparency, improvements
June 06, 2017
NBC: Settlement Reached for Woman Beaten by MBTA Officers
June 06, 2017
Washington Times: Boston woman settles with MBTA in police brutality case
June 06, 2017
NECN: Settlement Reached for Woman Beaten by MBTA Officers
June 06, 2017
MassLive: Boston woman settles civil rights lawsuit filed against MBTA Transit Police
June 06, 2017
ACLU of Massachusetts press release: Settlement reached in MBTA police brutality case
April 20, 2016
ACLU of Massachusetts press release: Roxbury resident alleges policies of MBTA resulted in transit officers beating her and violating her constitutional rights
January 08, 2016
Boston Herald: Assault, civil rights rap vs. ex-T officer
January 07, 2016 Ex-MBTA officer accused of civil rights violations indicted
January 07, 2016
Boston Globe: Former Transit Police officer indicted for assaulting woman at Dudley Station in 2014
January 07, 2016 MBTA police officer who allegedly attacked passenger with baton, pepper spray loses job
August 19, 2015 Woman says transit officers brutalized her for calling cops on them
August 19, 2015
AP: Boston woman files civil rights suit against MBTA police
August 19, 2015
WBZ: Roxbury Woman Sues MBTA Over Alleged Police Brutality
August 19, 2015
Boston Globe: Boston woman accuses MBTA transit officers of assault
August 26, 2015
Bay State Banner: MBTA police beating of 911-caller caught on video