NEW LONDON – Threatening sticky notes left on the car of officer and State Rep. Anthony Nolan in the department’s parking lot started appearing in mid-September, soon after Nolan wrote a letter to the mayor and the newly-appointed police chief urging them to act on a gender-discrimination and sexual-harassment complaint by a female detective against two senior male officers.
“Who’s gonna watch your back?” warned one of several notes left on his windshield or side-view mirror, Nolan recalled. “Be a cop not a politician,” Nolan said another read.
Nolan said the female detective’s frustration at the lack of action on her complaint by former Chief Peter Reichard and other officials prompted her to ask for his help in his capacity as a state legislator.
He wrote the Sept. 17 letter on her behalf to Mayor Michael Passero and Chief Brian Wright, who was appointed by the mayor two months earlier as the city’s first Black police chief, and suspended by the mayor last week for unknown reasons.
Passero has not disclosed the impetus for the Oct. 6 suspension, but has said he maintains full confidence in Wright’s ability to lead the department and expects him to return to work soon.
But Nolan’s attempts at intervention in the matter, as well as the apparent retaliation for it, and a lawsuit filed by the detective last week against the city and the two officers provide a window into the atmosphere and some of the circumstances leading up to Wright’s suspension on the same day a complaint was filed against him from within the department.
In his previous rank as captain under Reichard, Wright eventually took over the delayed investigation into the 2019 complaint by Detective Melissa Schafranski-Broadbent, one of only a handful of female officers in the 70-officer department.
Wright had completed his report early this year, her suit alleges, but Reichard never took any action on it.
Her lawsuit — filed last week against the city, Lt. Jeffrey Kalolo and Sgt. Charles Flynn — alleges that since she became an officer in 2007, she “has been subjected to institutional sexism, has been unfairly targeted, disciplined, retaliated against and the subject of biased investigations by her male supervisors,” including Flynn and Kalolo.
The lawsuit alleges numerous incidents, including intimidation, sexualized comments, excessive discipline for minor violations of department policy and degrading and demeaning comments, including about being a mother.
“Missy needs to decide if she wants to be a mommy or a cop,” the lawsuit claims Schafranski-Broadbent was told several times by Flynn in the presence of other officers and supervisors.
She also alleges that her requests for action on the matter were largely ignored by former Chief Reichard, who resigned in May after secretly-recorded audio surfaced of him making disparaging remarks about the city and his view that he was unfairly passed over for previous promotions in favor of minority officers.
In April, Schafranski-Broadbent sent an email to Reichard, Passero, Wright, and city Chief Administrative Officer Steven Fields asking for the status of her complaint.
She said she never received a response other than a conversation with then-Captain Wright, who acknowledged her concerns about the delay and told her he had spoken to Reichard about it.
When Reichard resigned in May, Passero appointed Wright interim chief and then permanent chief.
Because now-Chief Wright had investigated her complaint as a Captain, the suit says, he could not take action on his own report, and so referred the matter to Passero’s office as dictated by department protocol.
Under the mayor’s directive, the department completed its investigation into Schafranski-Broadbent’s complaint, she says, sometime in September.
Her lawsuit claims that the investigation substantiated her complaint, but no findings on the matter have been made public.
Passero did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
A request for comment by the union representing Flynn and Kalolo, Local 724, or from the officers themselves through the union, was not returned.
Flynn is vice-president of the union, and in the union’s June newsletter wrote a lengthy piece praising the Reichard administration and decrying the passage of police accountability laws by the state General Assembly.
In a Sept. 7 email to Nolan outlining her dismay at inaction on her complaint, Schafranski-Broadbent said that “With prior interactions with union leadership, they had dismissed my concerns and actively thrown their support to my abusers.”
Nolan’s Sept. 17 letter to Passero, Wright and Fields, written in his capacity as a state representative, alerted the officials that while the internal investigation into Schafranski-Broadbent’s complaint was still pending, she had filed a similar complaint with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
“I believe the New London Police Department is at its best when people are able to trust that
decisions are made fairly and with respect for all parties.” Nolan wrote. “It is my sincere hope and expectation that the administration will look into this matter to take appropriate action(s) and make sure that we are living up to this creed.”
After Wright was suspended a few weeks later, Nolan wrote a posting of support on his personal Facebook page in which he alleges that there is a handful of white officers at the department who “can’t handle” having a Black chief or supervisors and who were “plotting character assassination on Chief Wright because some officers/supervisors skeletons have surfaced of them doing wrong.”
Nolan said in an interview this week that the apparent retaliation for his intervention by whoever left the notes on his car closely resembled earlier incidents that he said occurred as he and other members of the General Assembly debated and then passed police-accountability legislation.
“It’s part of the games that go on and it’s just another example of the lengths that they will go to try to intimidate me,” he said, noting that similar behavior was directed at Schafranski-Broadbent.
“We have a lot of good officers here,” Nolan said. “But we have a small clique that make it such an intimidating environment, and that’s just created a mess for us.”
Editor’s Note: the story has been edited to reflect that notes were left on the car of Anthony Nolan, but not the complainant‘s.