I-Team: Hundreds detained at Gillette Stadium
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. —
It was Jan. 20, 2013, the AFC championship game between the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
"It was fun," said Jana Regan.
But all of that changed when Regan went to the ladies' room before the game. When she came out to meet her boyfriend, she found herself surrounded by police.
"And immediately, there were like 10 people around me. I was just extremely overwhelmed and incredibly intimidated," Regan said.
Suddenly, she was cuffed and taken into what's called "protective custody."
Police decided she was too drunk to attend the game, something Regan denies.
She was taken to a holding area under the stadium, known as "the compound," and detained for more than four hours before she was allowed to call her family.
And there's another consequence.
People taken into protective custody have to sign a form promising never to return to Patriot Place, which includes not just the stadium but any of the shops or restaurants.
"The police have no business taking people into (protective custody) for being intoxicated," said attorney David Milton who is representing Regan and dozens of other plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit.
He said Massachusetts law only allows police to hold people in protective custody if they're incapacitated not intoxicated.
"Unconscious, in need of medical attention, likely to cause or suffer harm to yourself or property," Milton said.
The NBC 10 I-Team wanted to know how many fans were detained for being incapacitated.
According to Foxborough police arrest logs for games and concerts at Gillette Stadium over the past two years, 612 people were taken into protective custody.
Police records show 488 of those detained or 79 percent were never charged with a crime.
Attorney Doug Louison represents the town of Foxborough, and said police believe everyone they detained met the legal definition of incapacitated.
"That is the town's position," he said. "When you think 400 sounds like a lot, but in one event there might be 40,000 or 50,000 people."
Louison said the protective custody policy is constitutional, and is designed to protect fans and prevent violence.
"No one in the town, in the police department, is looking to ruin people's day who are going to an event at the stadium, and no one is certainly looking to violate civil rights," he said.
Louison also said the town has no financial incentive to detain fans, and does so only when someone presents a danger to public safety.
"There is no incentive on the part of the police officers to take people into protective custody, so the police officers are acting in good faith," Louison said.
But Regan and others involved in the case believe their civil rights were violated.
"It was heartbreaking to think that there are cops out there that risk their lives, and they're great people. Then there are cops out there that make bad decision like this, and it tarnishes the image," she said.
The case is moving forward in federal court where the plaintiffs hope a judge will force the town of Foxborough to change its policies.