HAVERHILL – Local attorney Marsha Kazarosian made a name for herself nationwide in 1999 when she won a landmark discrimination lawsuit against Haverhill Country Club on behalf of women.
Over the years she has also represented victims of police misconduct, such as excessive violence by officers. She is an expert on civil rights and discrimination.
Photo courtesy of Haverhill Attorney Marsha Kazarosian
Now Kazarosian is joining a judge, law enforcement officers, and other top professionals responsible for ensuring that police across Massachusetts are held accountable for their actions.
Kazarosian was appointed to the newly created Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST for short). She is one of nine members of the group. Their work begins with the nation’s debate on issues such as the use of force by officers and racial profiling.
The commission will create a mandatory certification process for Massachusetts law enforcement officers – essentially a list of standards they must meet in order to be licensed for the job. The Commission will also develop methods of depriving officials of their certification and other penalties such as suspension or reprimand for wrongdoing.
The POST group is responsible for improving the relationship between the police force and the communities they serve. Kazarosian and her fellow Commissioners will work to improve the accountability and transparency of police forces, increase public confidence in the police and better educate officers, according to the organizers of the commission.
The Commission will closely monitor police departments across the state – investigations and Settlement of claims for misconduct; and maintaining databases of training, certification and internal records for all officers. The Commission will be responsible for ensuring that officers’ training and misconduct records are available to their current and future police forces.
The POST commission begins its work as the murder trial of former Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin begins. He is charged with killing 46-year-old George Floyd, a black man whose neck was under Chauvin’s knee for about nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and covered up during his arrest on May 25, 2020 for allegedly having one had used fake invoice.
Kazarosian is a partner at Kazarosian Costello LLP in Haverhill, where she focuses on civil rights, discrimination cases and police misconduct cases.
When contacted by The Eagle-Tribune, Kazarosian said she could not comment on her appointment at the moment but would discuss it publicly in the near future.
Study: State must regulate the police
A report released in November 2019 by chartered accountant Suzanne Bump said Massachusetts has one of the highest time requirements for police training in the nation – a compulsory 40 hours per year per officer. However, according to the study, the state does not provide enough training for officials to meet the requirements. The state also has no way of holding officials and their communities accountable for meeting training requirements, the study said.
Bump urged Massachusetts lawmakers to set up the POST commission and set minimum standards for police training, training programs, and other requirements for officers to maintain their professional credentials.
Attorney General Maura Healey had to appoint an attorney for the POST commission. This attorney was to be appointed by the Civil Rights and Social Justice Department Council of the Massachusetts Bar Association. Healey appointed Kazarosian to this position.
Kazarosian joins other professionals from across the state – including a police chief, a judge, a psychologist, a chaplain, a lawyer and a social worker – who have also been appointed to the commission. She is the only member who has done her professional job in the Merrimack Valley.
Kazarosian is a veteran litigator who has practiced law in Massachusetts since 1982, handling high profile cases recognized in New England and across the country. This comes from a press release from Governor Charlie Baker and the Attorney General’s office.
“In establishing a commission for standards and training for peace officers, the Commonwealth is taking an important step to improve public safety and build trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve,” said Baker. “We are excited to appoint a variety of experts to the POST Commission and look forward to their work in creating a more effective, fairer, and more accountable law enforcement system in Massachusetts.”
“Each of these officers brings unique expertise and experience to this commission as we initiate significant reforms in our state and local law enforcement agencies,” said Healey.
Kazarosian has a wide range of experience
Kazarosian is a past president of the Massachusetts Bar Association and continues to serve on the bar’s executive board. She began her career as a criminal defense attorney with Essex Count y Bar Advocates, eventually focusing on civil rights and discrimination cases.
In the 1999 sex discrimination lawsuit on behalf of women against Haverhill Country Club, Kazarosian won a $ 3.9 million judgment on plaintiffs, successfully arguing that the club favors male members and female members treated unfairly. That judgment was later upheld by the state appeals court. It was the first time a state’s public accommodation law applies to discrimination in a country club.
Kazarosian later switched to representing plaintiffs in cases of misconduct and excessive violence against police officers.
Kazarosian has consistently received honors from her peers. She has been named a Super Lawyer in Civil Rights, Personal Injury Disputes, and Family Law each year by New England Super Lawyers Magazine since 2006. She was most recently listed on the Top 50: 2020 Women Massachusetts Super Lawyers List and was also included in the list of Top 50 Women Lawyers in New England.
POST member experts on police and legal issues
Kazarosian’s colleagues on the POST Commission include experts in constitutional law, labor issues, law enforcement, minority issues, psychology, oversight of government agencies and the impact of crime on victims.
Other Attorney General Appointed Commissioners include: Lawrence Calderone, Chairman and President of the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Policy Group and President of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association; and Larry Ellison, a school detective in the Boston Police Department.
As a member of the Massachusetts Joint Labor Management Committee, Calderone represents police unions in labor contract negotiations with communities across the state. Previously, Ellison was President of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, where he was instrumental in advancing more colored officials in higher positions, protecting the rights of minority officials, and providing free legal aid to minority officials.
The governor appointed three members to the commission: retired Judge Margaret Hinkle, who served on the Massachusetts Supreme Court and will chair the POST commission; Michael Wynn, chief of the Pittsfield Police Department, was an instructor at several police academies; and Charlene Luma, a licensed social worker and director of the Victim Witness Assistance Program for the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office.
Three members of the commission are joint representatives of the governor and the attorney general. These are: Dr. Hanya Bluestone, a licensed psychologist and CEO of Labyrinth Psychological Services in Holden, which provides specialized trauma and behavioral treatments to patients of all ages; Clementina Chéry, ordained senior chaplain and co-founder and executive director of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in Boston, a healing, teaching, and learning center for families and communities affected by murder, trauma, grief, and loss; and Kimberly West, a partner at Ashcroft law firm in Boston, who represents clients in federal and state investigations.
West also served as chief of the Criminal Bureau of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. There she led a team of experts in the prosecution of a range of crimes and served in the office of the Inspectorate General to ensure oversight of government agencies.