The Leominster police chief today recommended that the city’s mayor fire a police officer who allegedly directed a racial epithet at Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford earlier this month during a minor-league game in New Hampshire.
At a public hearing in Leominster, Robert Healey, the interim chief, also described other incidents in which, he said, Officer John A. Perreault violated department rules about comments to the public.
In one incident, Perreault allegedly called a black man a racial epithet at a Leominster bar; in another, he allegedly made a racially insensitive remark to an African-American man at a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, Healey said at the hearing.
The department began its internal investigation into Perreault following an anonymous tip that while off-duty, the officer called Crawford a “Monday” shortly before a July 5 baseball game between the AA Portland Sea Dogs and the AA Fisher Cats in Manchester, N.H.
The word “Monday” can be used as a racial slur. It can also be used as a general insult without racial connotations, said Joseph Sandulli, a union attorney representing Perreault, in an interview today.
When Perreault used the word, he meant to taunt Crawford’s performance, not his race, Sandulli said. “His view is he used that term ‘Monday’ as a disparaging term for a bad ballplayer,” Sandulli said.
In the St. Patrick’s Day incident, Perreault is alleged to have told a black man wearing a Guiness shirt, “I didn’t know they serve Guinness in Africa,” Healey said. Sandulli said other officers heard the comment and did not believe it violated department rules, or else they would have reported it to supervisors.
Perreault’s attorney also questioned Healey’s account of the alleged incident at the Leominster bar, an allegation described in writing by someone who did not attend Wednesday’s hearing.
Sandulli said the mayor should not have allowed the allegation, since Sandulli did not have the opportunity to cross-examine the witness. “That is absolutely hearsay,” Sandulli said.
Perreault has been on paid leave pending the hearing. Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella now has two days to announce a decision.
In an interview today, he said he was still weighing his choice. Wednesday was the first time he had seen much of the evidence presented by Healey. Mazzarella praised the department’s investigation as thorough and swift.
“The longer these things go on without resolution of some sort, that’s when the community gets untrusting,” he said.
Crawford first alluded to the “Monday” comment at the end of a postgame press conference July 5, and he reflected further on the incident in an interview the next day in the Red Sox clubhouse.
“Of course, I took it personally,” Crawford said. “You got to understand I’m from Texas, and I’ve never had to go through that kind of stuff before. It was kind of the first time it was just so much in your face like that. So, it is what it is.”
If the mayor moves to fire Perreault, the officer can appeal the decision. Sandulli said they would likely exercise that option. Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.