Posted on Feb 03, 2006
Jury awards officer $165G Says city's conduct showed 'reckless indifference'
By LISA REDMOND, Sun Staff
CAMBRIDGE -- Describing the Lowell Police Department's retaliatory actions toward Lowell Police Officer Robert Alvarez as "reckless indifference," a jury awarded the veteran offficer $165,000 in damages after he claimed years of employment discrimination because of his race.
After a 15-day trial and two full days of deliberations, a Middlesex Superior Court jury late yesterday handed Alvarez, a 19-year Lowell police officer, $15,000 for emotional distress, $60,000 for lost income and $90,000 in punitive damages for retaliation dating back to 1999.
In addition, Alvarez, 47, will be eligible for more than $60,000 in interest, and the city will have to pay the fees of Alvarez's attorney, Marisa Campagna.
In its verdict, the jury found the Lowell Police Department did not discriminate against Alvarez, but did retaliate against him when he filed claims of discrimination with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
The jury agreed in its verdict that the city's conduct showed "reckless indifference to others.'
The city has already filed a motion asking the judge to set aside the jury's verdict, and next week will file additional motions asking the judge to overturn the verdict and damage amounts, according to Assistant City Solicitor Brian Leahey.
"The jury made a decision based on what they heard, but whether or not that was enough as a matter of law is something a judge will decide," Leahey said.
Alvarez could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Alvarez had filed the civil lawsuit against the city in 2002 after losing cases with Civil Service and the MCAD.
He had alleged that due to his Spanish surname, he was subjected to discrimination and retaliation when he was not promoted and pulled from plum job assignments such as the SWAT team, motorcycle squad and firearms instructor.
The Police Department's actions have essentially "cost him his career," Campagna told the jury.
The city had argued that Alvarez was passed over after a series of incidents allegedly involving a tussle with another cop and allegations of insubordination.