LEOMINSTER — Leominster police supervisors believe that one of their officers directed a racial epithet at Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford this month during a minor-league game in New Hampshire, interim Police Chief Robert Healey said Wednesday.
A 10-day internal investigation of the accusation also turned up other incidents in which the officer, John A. Perreault, appeared to violate department rules about comments to the public, Healey said at a press conference. He did not provide details about those incidents.
Perreault will be on paid leave until a disciplinary hearing next week, during which Healey will recommend at least a five-day suspension. The police chief said he has not decided whether to seek Perreault’s firing.
A veteran officer with no apparent disciplinary record, Perreault is alleged to have called Crawford, who is black, a “Monday” as the outfielder signed autographs before a July 5 Portland Sea Dogs game in Manchester, N.H.
While not a well-known slur, the word can be used as a derogatory reference to black people.
Leominster’s mayor, Dean Mazzerella, who will preside over next week’s hearing, said he is disappointed by the incident.
“This shouldn’t happen anywhere,” he said. “Not any baseball park, not anywhere.”
Perreault was off duty at the time of the alleged incident, which Crawford first mentioned at the end of a postgame press conference July 5.
The outfielder 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.”
Attempts to reach Perreault and the police union representing him were unsuccessful.
Outside Wednesday’s press conference, Perreault’s niece Cassandra Mateo, 20, described her uncle as a dedicated police officer who wants to keep his job.
Mateo said she sees Perreault every week and has never heard him make any inappropriate comments about race. “He’s very outgoing,” she said. “He’s fun to be around. He’s just very lovable.”
Mateo said her uncle is hurt by the allegations, which she believes are either untrue or exaggerated.
The publicity surrounding Perreault has not shaken the public’s trust in the Leominster Police Department, Healey said at the press conference.
“The police officers in this town are good officers,” Healey said. “They have the public trust, and I don’t think that this incident, whatever the outcome is, is going to change that.”
Leominster resident Eric Singleton agreed with that sentiment.
Waiting for a bus near the town’s police station, Singleton, who is black, said the apparent slur reminded him of racist attitudes he encountered decades ago in Boston. But one incident does not define an entire department, he said. “There’s a lot of great guys on the job.”
In a statement Wednesday, the Anti-Defamation League praised the steps taken by Leominster’s mayor and police chief.
“It is particularly upsetting when a police officer, on or off duty, creates an environment of disrespect,” Michael N. Sheetz, chairman of the ADL New England regional board of directors, said in a statement.
“We thank and commend Leominster’s top community leadership for taking positive steps in response to this incident.”Adam Sege can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamSege.