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New London Police Department hit with lawsuit as it deals with chief on leave

New London — Adding to a week of turmoil at the New London Police Department is a lawsuit filed Thursday from a female police detective who alleges she has been repeatedly subjected to sexual harassment and endured a hostile work environment for years because of her gender.

The lawsuit from Melissa Schafranski-Broadbent contains allegations that mostly mirror a complaint to the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities she filed last year.

The suit was served a day after Chief Brian Wright, installed as the department’s first Black chief in July, was placed on paid leave during an investigation into an undisclosed complaint.

Wright is not named in Schafranski-Broadbent’s complaint, which dates back to October 2019. Her suit names Lt. Jeffrey Kalolo and Sgt. Charles Flynn.

Kalolo is named in multiple instances of alleged mistreatment in the suit, everything from unfair accusations, stares and comments to her car being blocked in on one occasion by Kalolo in an alleged attempt to intimidate her.

Attorney Jacques Parenteau, who represents Schafranski-Broadbent in the suit, said the city also has not completed an investigation yet into Flynn. Schafranski-Broadbent alleges Flynn made sexualized comments about her to other officers.

It was Wright who conducted an internal investigation into the complaints against Kalolo, which Parenteau said was completed earlier this year but never acted on by former police Chief Peter Reichard. The report has not yet been made available by the city.

Reichard retired earlier this year after an unidentified police officer secretly recorded Reichard making disparaging remarks about the city and talking about being passed over for promotions in favor of minority candidates.

It’s not clear whether there is a connection between Wright’s investigation into the complaints against Kalolo and his placement on leave, but Parenteau said “it does seem odd” that Kalolo faces an upcoming disciplinary hearing and an internal complaint materializes against the person who conducted the investigation.

Parenteau also represents New London police Sgt. Cornelius Rodgers, a Black officer who has a pending federal civil rights lawsuit alleging a pattern of unfair treatment based on his race. Lt. Robert Pickett, named in Rodgers’ suit, later filed his own discrimination complaint against the department, claiming he was passed over for promotion and his reputation was damaged by allegations against him.

City officials provided no further details about the complaint against Wright, but Chief Administrative Officer Steve Fields said Wright was placed on leave the day the city received the complaint. Fields said while officers in the department could be moved around to avoid conflicts while an investigation is being conducted, Wright could not. He said it was best he be removed while the investigation was pending.

Parenteau said there seems to be a difference in treatment afforded a Black police officer compared to others.

“Melissa’s complaint was filed nearly two years ago and neither one of these officers (Flynn and Kalolo) were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation,” Parenteau said.

Kalolo remains in a supervisory position and “the city is still dragging its feet in the investigation of Sgt. Flynn...” Parenteau said.

“What does this say about whether the City of New London continues to engage in systemic racism against Black officers? What does this day about how the City of New London regards female officers?” Parenteau said.

The city has hired Neville Brooks as an interim superintendent to oversee the department during the investigation. Brooks is the retired deputy police chief of the Hartford Police Department who most recently worked in security at Electric Boat and was recommended to the city after consultation with other police chiefs and executives, Fields said. He also appeared to be a good fit for the community, Fields said.

Passero said Brooks could not be named interim chief because of a lack of credentials as identified by the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council.

As to why he didn’t name an existing officer to handle Wright’s duties, Passero said it was an attempt to minimize disruptions to the running of the department.

With one captain’s position vacant, Passero said it was not an option to create another vacancy by elevating one of the two captains.

Michael Rose, an attorney with the firm Rose Kallor, is handling the investigation, and Passero said he expected it to take about two weeks.

g.smith@theday.com

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