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Italian Americans Charge Boston Police Leader With Ethnic Stereotyping

Press Contact: Kylie Cafiero, (202) 547-2900 kcafiero@osia.org

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2004 ­ Tom Nee, president of the Boston Patrolmen's Association, has been charged with stereotyping Italian Americans, reports the Commission for Social Justice® (CSJ), the anti-defamation arm of the Sons of Italy®, the largest Italian American organization in the United States.

The charges followed a comment Nee made to Boston Globe reporter, Joan Vennochi that appeared in the June 10 issue of the newspaper. Vennochi reports that Nee said working with Boston mayor Thomas Menino is like "working with the Mafia."

The CSJ wrote to Nee on June 25, asking him to publicly apologize to the mayor and to the estimated 800,000 Italian Americans in Boston's greater metropolitan area. It was signed by the CSJ national president, Albert DeNapoli, Esq., who practices law in Boston, and Kevin Caira, president of the Massachusetts state chapter of the Order Sons of Italy®®.

In their letter, DeNapoli and Caira noted that Menino is the city's first mayor of Italian heritage. "Since there is nothing in his past that would link him in any way with organized crime, we can only assume you did so because of his Italian heritage," they wrote.

DeNapoli and Caira informed Nee that the Massachusetts state chapter of the Order Sons of Italy®® also has taken action. At its June convention, the delegates circulated and signed a petition demanding an apology. A copy of the petition was attached to the letter to Nee.

Nee denies he made the remark. But reporter Vennochi stands by her story. "It might be a question of 'he said, she said,' but he knew he was talking on the record and I have the remark verbatim in my notes," she says. "I remember he laughed when he said it."

Nee has not returned repeated calls the CSJ made to his office over the past several weeks. To date, he has not responded to the CSJ letter.

"While some may question the need of the Italian community to engage in the battles it wages against stereotyping, actions such as the statement by Nee underscore the insidious nature of the constant portrayal of Italian Americans as associated with gangsterism (e.g.: "the Sopranos")," says DeNapoli.

"For the head of the Patrolmen's Union, the spokesperson for the good officers serving Boston, to associate the top official in the City with actions likened to dealing with the Mafia, and then fail or refuse to respond to news stories, letters, petitions and repeated telephone calls, is beyond any political issues that may exist in the City between the Mayor and the Patrolmen's Union, but instead shows a profound lack of respect for law-abiding Italian-Americans. We will ask the Police Commissioner to undertake an investigation of these statements and Nee's refusal to respond," DeNapoli says.

The Commission for Social Justice® is the anti-defamation arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), the largest and oldest national organization in the U.S. for men and women of Italian heritage. Founded in 1905, today OSIA has 600,000 members and supporters and a network of more than 700 lodges or chapters coast to coast.