BOSTON - A Massachusetts mayor on Thursday fired a white police officer accused of using a racial slur to taunt Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford, saying the officer had "brought discredit" on himself and the department.
"You have demonstrated through your racist comments that you cannot continue as a patrol officer," Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella wrote in his termination notice to officer John Perrault.
Mazzarella's decision comes a day after Police Chief Robert Healey recommended during a disciplinary hearing that the mayor fire Perrault, saying he'd used racial slurs at least twice before.
Perrault's lawyer, Joseph Sandulli, said his client would either appeal through the civil service commission or file a grievance through the police union. Sandulli said Perrault didn't intend the word as a racist insult and the city overreacted.
"He was criticizing Crawford for being a bad player, not because he was a black man," Sandulli said.
A Red Sox spokeswoman said the team would have no comment on the decision.
Perrault had been on paid leave since he called Crawford a "Monday" before a July 5 minor league game in Manchester, N.H.
The word can be used as a derogatory term for blacks, and is often associated with Mondays being one of the most-hated days of the week, such as in the common phrase, "I hate Mondays."
Crawford was playing with a Red Sox minor league affiliate while rehabilitating a wrist injury and Perrault attended the game while off duty. After Perrault taunted Crawford, the outfielder notified stadium officials.
In the termination notice, Mazzarella cited previous alleged racist remarks by Perrault, including when he repeatedly used a racial slur in a bar while watching black NBA players. In another instance at Leominster's St. Patrick's Day celebration, Perrault saw a black man wearing a shirt displaying the name of the Irish beer Guinness, and commented to him, "I didn't know they serve Guinness in Africa."
Sandulli said two superior officers with Perrault at the parade clearly didn't consider the remark improper because they didn't report it, even though they're obligated to report anything that violates department rules.
He said Perrault's alleged remarks at the bar were hearsay because the city relied on a written statement and never produced the witness for questioning. Also, Sandulli said, almost no one at the hearing, including Perrault, was previously aware that Monday can be used as a racist term.
"He feels strongly he didn't mean the comment in a racial way, and he's not a racist, and he wants to establish that," Sandulli said.
But Mazzarella didn't believe Perrault's explanations. "In arriving at this conclusion I did not check common sense at the door," he wrote, adding the word Monday was "certainly directed at Mr. Crawford's race."
"Your actions are so egregious that severe discipline is warranted," he said. "There is no place for someone who exhibits such objectionable behaviour in the Leominster Police Department."