Mass. minority police officers' association accuses Lowell of discrimination in promotions

A Lowell sergeant says the city's police department discriminated against him when it passed him over for a promotion, according to an appeal filed with the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission.

The Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers filed the appeal Friday on behalf of Sgt. Francisco Maldonado. In a separate letter to the city, the group said the decision is the latest in a pattern of discrimination in the department.

"I think here we see a clear example of retaliation and of injustice," the group's president, Jeffrey Lopes, said in an interview.

But in an official "bypass" letter delivered to Maldonado on Aug. 15, city manager Thomas Golden noted a number of prior infractions in the officer's personnel file, including failing to properly secure a crime scene after a sexual assault, misusing sick time and missing a firearms training session.

"There are several concerning incidents and recurring patterns of behavior that raise doubts about [Maldonado's] suitability for promotion," Golden wrote. Under the state civil service system, municipal officials are required to inform a candidate when they are being passed over for a promotion.

In a letter to the city, the minority officers' group countered that Maldonado's conduct never resulted in a suspension, and that other officers, many of them white, had been promoted to higher ranks after much more serious offenses.

In one instance a captain was promoted even after the department found he had mishandled part of an investigation of an alleged fentanyl dealer, ultimately contributing to the case falling apart, according to the association's letter. That captain and the other officers involved in the case are now on the Middlesex District Attorney's "Brady List," which alerts prosecutors that a police officer may have acted inappropriately in a case.

"While it takes a great level of egregiousness to be placed on the Brady list, many of these officers were still promoted to higher ranks," Lopes wrote in the Aug. 16 letter to Golden, a copy of which was reviewed by WBUR.

Maldonado also alleged he is the victim of a retaliation campaign for writing a public letter about diversity issues in hiring and promotions within the department.

"At a critical moment when the administration has the opportunity to diversify the command ranks, it chooses to not only squander the opportunity but to engage in blatant discrimination," he wrote in a letter to the Lowell City Council.

Maldonado filed a complaint about this alleged retaliation with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in April 2022. That case is still active.

Lowell police Superintendent Greg Hudon declined to comment for this story, citing the active appeal.

Lowell police data show 72% of the department's roughly 250 officers are white. The city as a whole is about 58% white, according to the 2020 Census.

Lowell now has one Hispanic police captain, following the recent promotion of Lt. Marisol Nobrega this summer. She had been on the force for 25 years.

"Captain Nobrega waited a very long time to be promoted," Lopes said. "She should have been promoted captain a long time ago."


Walter Wuthmann General Assignment Reporter
Walter Wuthmann is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.



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