LEOMINSTER (AP) - A Massachusetts police officer was put on paid leave Wednesday after an internal investigation found that he directed a racial slur at Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford.
Officer John Perrault was suspended pending a disciplinary hearing scheduled for next Wednesday at which he could face more severe punishment, including being fired, according to Leominster (LEH'-min-stuhr) Mayor Dean Mazzarella and Police Chief Robert Healey.
Healey and any witnesses will present their case to Mazzarella at the hearing, and Perrault will be given a chance to respond, Mazzarella said.
Asked if firing Perrault was likely, assuming the hearing confirmed Perrault directed the slur at Crawford, Mazzarella said, "I don't know if it's likely, but it's certainly an option. Without hearing it all, it's hard to say."
Mazzarella said Leominster police are expected to be good representatives of the city at all times, whether out of uniform or out of state.
"Free speech doesn't allow you to start conducting yourself in that manner," Mazzarella said. "This guy's a cop."
Perrault, who is white, was placed on desk duty after the July 5 incident. He was described as a veteran officer with no prior disciplinary problems.
He was off duty and attending a minor league game in Manchester, N.H.
Witnesses said a heckling fan called Crawford, who is black, a "monday" before a game between the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and Portland Sea Dogs. Crawford said he interpreted the word as a racial slur.
The word can be used as a derogatory term for blacks, and is often associated with Mondays being one of the least-liked days of the week.
Crawford was playing for the Double-A Sea Dogs while rehabilitating a wrist injury.
Crawford alerted stadium officials to the remark, and team management apologized.
Leominster police reached out to Crawford as part of their investigation but did not talk to him, Mazzarella said.
The mayor and chief also issued an apology to Crawford.
Crawford returned to action for the Red Sox on Monday night, in a 5-1 win over the Chicago White Sox.