Police were called to the sixth floor of Town Hall last Thursday as an argument between two officials escalated into a shouting match.


Police were called to the sixth floor of Town Hall last Thursday as an argument between two officials escalated into a shouting match.

No charges have been filed in the verbal spat, which broke out between Town Meeting member Arthur Wellington Conquest III and Zoning Board of Appeals member Lawrence Kaplan minutes after the ZBA hearing ended.

The incident took place after Town Meeting member Ruthann Sneider told the board she didn’t think they were doing their job with their decision on a controversial case involving 1 Somerset Road (see related story).

Kaplan angrily responded that he had spent many unpaid hours on the board, and that Sneider should not criticize him until she had done the same.

Conquest re-entered the room from the hallway and told Kaplan to control his tone when speaking to Sneider.

The two men yelled at each other as they walked out.

David Holmstrom, a Greenough Street resident who attended the meeting, said he heard Kaplan shout, “Was that a threat? Someone call the police!”

Officers stopped Conquest as he left the elevator in the lobby, but no arrests were made. As of Wednesday, May 30, Brookline Police Capt. John O’ Leary said the incident was still under investigation.

After seeing six police officers bound into the first-floor lobby, witnesses told the TAB they thought the police response was excessive.

O’Leary said the officers acted appropriately, given they only knew there was an “incident” on the sixth floor.

But fallout followed during a police budgetary discussion at Town Meeting, days after the incident, as murmurs of racial profiling buzzed among those involved.

Police Chief Daniel O’Leary defended the department, saying a single incident is far outweighed by years of continuous racial sensitivity training, diversity-friendly hiring patterns and instituting a citizen complaint policy.

“I’ll match what we have done up against anybody in this country,” he said. “You base what you do not on a person’s skin color or what part of the world they come from, but on their actions.”

Conquest, a Precinct 6 Town Meeting member, said he wanted to see more done, as he believes training did not work.

“This is not only about me. I am not interested in being an honorary white citizen in this community who gets special treatment,” said Conquest, who is black. “This community is begging for a Rodney King incident.”

Karen Lieff, a Precinct 1 Town Meeting member, also expressed her recent discomfort with police.

“I’ve dealt with the Brookline Police and they have usually been pretty good,” said Lieff, who is black. “Though I have to say, recently, I’ve felt a little chill in the air.”

Town Meeting Moderator Sandy Gadsby silenced numerous efforts to specifically reference the ZBA incident.

Selectman Chairman Gil Hoy said selectmen would hold a hearing about the police response at a future date.

Neal Simpson can be reached at nsimpson@cnc.com. Jessica Scarpati can be reached at jscarpat@cnc.com.