In a multifaceted career beginning with a degree in electrical engineering and including years as a computer specialist in the private sector and the military, Adam Rosenberg says he never encountered overt discrimination on the job because of his Jewish faith.
Then he joined the Connecticut State Police.
And after 15 years in uniform that have seen him rise to a top command post as a Lieutenant, his recent formal complaint over what he calls “systemic racism” by some civilians in the agency against him because he’s Jewish has led to a state investigation.
“It’s super, super sad that it’s gotten to this point,” Rosenberg said in an interview with CT Examiner. “Nobody seems to care and the message that’s being sent is anti-Semitism in Connecticut is okay.”
Jewish troopers are rare on the force, he says, and his heritage is unmistakable when you meet him.
“I’m a guy with the last name Rosenberg from Brooklyn, New York,” said the fast-talking 49-year-old, not shy about joking about his distinctive accent and blunt demeanor reflecting his home city. “I mean, it’s not hard to figure out I’m Jewish.”
Rosenberg runs the department’s Eastern District, supervising troop barracks in Tolland, Danielson, Montville and Colchester, where he is based.
He entered the state police training academy in 2007, after deciding he wanted a job that required more passion and commitment than the information-technology positions he held in New York and Boston.
His digital background led to him working in the state police computer-crimes unit for seven years.
Those skills, and his self-described deep patriotism, also led him to take a two-year leave from the department in 2017 in order to accept an anti-terrorism assignment as an intelligence officer in Africa with the U.S. Navy Reserves, in which he became a commissioned officer five years earlier.
His job was to use his engineering, computer and investigative abilities to monitor suspected terrorists through digital and satellite means and then target them with computer-guided, armed drones.
“We would track high-value enemy combatants and targets and then we would use drones to, as we say, eliminate them permanently from the battlefield,” Rosenberg explained. “I got to do a lot of Secret Squirrel stuff.”
“I stuck out because I was Jewish”
He returned to the state police in 2019, and his high-level computer skills were soon tapped to help the department merge into a new software platform and operating system that manages payroll, scheduling and other human-resource functions.
And that is when, he says, he believes discrimination began to seep into his daily interactions with upper-level civilian staff that were responsible for the complicated and strenuous computer system change, and who he says resented his let’s-get-it-done approach.
“I stuck out because I was Jewish and I stuck out because I was a noodge,” he said, using a Yiddish-derived term for someone who “nudges” others with a prodding, persistent nature. “I stuck out because I was trying to get my work done and I stuck out because I was trying to get people who were normally lazy to do their work.”
Rosenberg insists that he never experienced any similar treatment from fellow troopers, while acknowledging they sometimes engaged in “politically incorrect” locker room type ribbing based on heritage and upbringing that spares no one on the force, especially in the early going of a trooper’s career.
“It’s a way of fitting in and I definitely wasn’t offended by it,” he said in describing the teasing. “It’s like – oh, Brooklyn’s in the house. You think you’re something special, huh? Do you know the Beastie Boys? Then I go see my parents in Brooklyn and I come back up with a box of cannolis and the guys are like, ‘Hey, maybe Brooklyn’s not so bad.’”
But the treatment from some of the non-uniformed staff involved in the computer changeover at the department headquarters in Middletown, he says, was nothing like that.
Most often, it took the form of what he calls “crickets.”
Unanswered phone calls and emails. Resistance in accepting his authority to make what he viewed as routine decisions on payroll and other personnel matters.
“The civilians look at it as if they run the department and nobody is going to tell them what to do, especially a Jewish cop, right?” he said. “And that’s exactly what it was: ‘He can complain as much as he wants and I’m not even going to respond to his emails.”’
But on May 5, he says, the climate of negativity became more concrete.
A colleague showed him an email written the previous day by Scott DeVico, a longtime civilian political appointee who supervises the information-technology, human resources and other units in the agency.
He is considered the right-hand man of Commissioner James Rovella, a former Hartford police chief appointed by Gov. Ned Lamont – both of whom have received votes of no-confidence from the troopers’ union.
Rosenberg said he and DeVico had frequently clashed over the computer project.
The short body of DeVico’s email concerned an interview of a candidate for a civilian office position within the agency.
But it was the subject line that prompted Rosenberg’s colleague to bring it to his attention.
“Inbred Jews,” it read.
Auto-correct or intentional?
Although the context between the subject line and the email itself is unclear, to Rosenberg it was confirmation of the bias he said DeVico had more subtly exhibited in his presence, mainly through a dismissive attitude and somewhat vague derogatory comments concerning Jewish people and money and holding positions of power.
“Friction developed pretty quickly right off the bat between us because he didn’t like the fact that I was being brought in to begin with and he didn’t like the fact that I was there trying to essentially tell them how we should be doing things,” on the computer system project, Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg’s first response upon seeing the email was to call a human resources supervisor who was one of two recipients of it, and who initially indicated to him that she was unaware of its content, he said.
“I’m like, this is a problem and then she said, oh, I already spoke to (DeVico) about it,” Rosenberg recalled of his phone call with the human resources official. “She goes, well, he’s claiming it was like an IT thing and I said to her, okay, I’m done here. I’m filing a complaint. And guess what she does next? Hangs up the phone on me.”
Rosenberg filed a complaint that same day on the department’s Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action Complaint Form, outlining his allegations about DeVico’s previous interactions with him and the email.
“His conduct is unbecoming and represents a deplorable hate which he has filtered down to the HR, Payroll and the IT department which all work under his direct control and supervision,” Rosenberg wrote, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by CT Examiner. “He has instructed and directed his underlings based on his biased and racist agency agenda.”
Rosenberg went on to say in the complaint that “Anti-semitism and hate crimes are not an accident. It’s disgusting, immoral and should not be covered up by this department.”
DeVico quickly apologized to those on the email chain, claiming that the phrase was inserted by the auto-correct spelling function in the state email account used to send the message from his cell phone when he typed “interview” into the subject line.
“I failed to notice this before it was sent,” DeVico wrote in an email to Rovella the following day that was titled “Email” and opened with “Per our discussion.” “I am truly sorry for not catching this before I hit send as this type of language is not representative of myself.”
DeVico also requested in that email to Rovella that the agency’s information-technology unit “look into how this happened to ensure it does not occur again to myself or anyone else.”
When contacted by CT Examiner via email late last week, DeVico replied: “I can not comment on an open investigation but I look forward to fully cooperating with the investigation.”
A series of questions on the incident and the status of the investigation sent to Rovella and Col. Stavros Mellekas, the top state police commander, drew a one-sentence, unsigned response from the agency’s media-relations office.
Citing a state statute, the reply said “this complaint was sent over to the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, who deferred it to the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services” for investigation.
Rosenberg doubts that his allegations will be thoroughly explored, given DeVico’s close connection with Rovella and to what Rosenberg describes as a climate of resistance to his claims he has received so far from the agency, including being told by superiors to let the matter go.
He’s also not buying DeVico’s story that it was his phone, not his hand, that authored the slur in the email.
“That’s absurd,” Rosenberg said, noting the irony of the situation given his extensive computer background.
He and several friends have tried to replicate the alleged auto-corrected subject line on their phones.
“Every time I tried to get it to say the word Jews, it came up with the word ‘juice,’ he said. “If this was done by any one of us troopers, we’d be fired.”
Rosenberg is so frustrated with the situation that he is considering leaving a job that he loves.
“I’m thinking, is there a way for me to get out of here without damaging my good name and my reputation and go somewhere else?” he said. “It’s just become so despicable here. It’s absolutely atrocious.”
“It’s part of the reason I left”
Rosenberg’s boss at the time was Lt. Col. Jack Goncalves, then commander of the agency’s Office of Field Operations.
He told CT Examiner that he was aware of the history of tension between Rosenberg and DeVico and other agency civilians, and believes it was due to Rosenberg’s proficiency and tenacity at getting the new computer system up and running.
Having a uniformed trooper in that position was highly unusual, Goncalves said, which only exacerbated the conflict.
“He was too competent,” Goncalves said of Rosenberg. “He was doing their job for them – he was really doing two or three jobs. He saved weeks of payroll for the sworn and civilian staff with his expertise. If I had three or four Rosenbergs working for me I would have been all set.”
He said the digital trail of the email itself should be investigated by the agency’s computer-crimes unit, not by human resource staff at the Department of Administrative Services.
“It will either prove that he wrote it intentionally or it was a mistake,” Goncalves said of DeVico, adding that he also has been unable to replicate the subject-line scenario on his own phone.
Goncalves retired on July 1, and said his objection to how Rosenberg was treated and how the DeVico email was initially brushed off by the administration played a role in his departure.
“This just isn’t morally right to see this guy get crucified and it’s part of the reason I left,” he said, recalling how upset Rosenberg was immediately after seeing DeVico’s email. “It just disgusts me how this was handled. This is not the state police that I was part of for 25 years.”