The Leominster police chief Wednesday recommended the firing of a police officer who allegedly directed a racial epithet at Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford earlier this month during a minor-league game.
At a hearing in Leominster, Chief Robert Healey described other incidents in which he said Officer John A. Perreault violated department rules regarding comments to the public.
In one incident, Perreault allegedly hurled a racial epithet at a black man 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 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 New Hampshire 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 Wednesday.
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 Guinness 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; otherwise, the attorney said, they would have reported it to supervisors.
Perreault’s attorney also questioned the police chief’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 it was unfair to include that account in the hearing, because he did not have the opportunity to cross-examine the witness.
Leominster’s mayor, Dean J. Mazzarella, who presided over the hearing, will announce within two days what disciplinary action he will take against Perreault.
In an interview Wednesday, the mayor said he was still weighing his decision. Wednesday was the first time he had seen 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. Sandulli said his client would be likely to exercise that option.