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Former Cop Discrimination Case

Author: Mary Ellen Godin
Record-Journal staff
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

MERIDEN - A former police officer who claimed that Chief Jeffry Cossette retaliated against him and forced him to retire after he filed a discrimination claim lost his appeal Monday.

Former Officer John Neron filed suit against Cossette in October 2008, claiming he was retaliated against for going to the Connecticut Human Rights and Opportunities Commission with a complaint over alleged discrimination in the department.

City attorneys who argued on behalf of Cossette convinced the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that Neron's treatment was based on his record.

"Very simply, we argued that John Neron's on-the-job performance was below standards and the chief was only motivated by those deficiencies and trying to get Mr. Neron to do his job the way he should," said attorney John Gorman.

"The appellate court reaffirms my decision," Cossette said Monday. "This case did not have enough merit to go to trial, and it upheld that."

While on the police force, Neron was arrested twice in one month in domestic incidents involving a custody dispute. While on administrative leave following the arrests, Neron filed the CHRO complaint alleging discrimination. The complaint was later withdrawn.

At the end of 2006, Neron was given backto- back 30-day unpaid suspensions for violating department procedures following his arrests. He was arrested again in 2007 on a charge of violating a protective order, according to Record-Journal archives.

Court records show he has no convictions. Neron's attorney, John Williams, argued to the lower court that Neron had an exemplary record during his 11 years on the force but had been passed over for assignments and promotions.

Neron has said he suffered a heart attack on Jan. 20, 2008 and 11 days later was asked to resign from the department. He also waived his right to bring a lawsuit, grievance or legal proceedings against the city.

Neron's attorneys had claimed that the lawsuit was against Cossette, not the city, and the lower-court judge erred by issuing a judgment without a jury trial. The appellate court upheld the judge's decision.

"How could they do that?" Neron said about Monday's ruling. "I don't know how they could do that."

Neron and his attorneys argued that he became a target within the department following his arrests and CHRO complaint.

"We are disappointed in the result but recognized from the beginning that it would be difficult to persuade three judges to overturn a ruling by one of their colleagues," said attorney Sally Roberts, who represented Neron in the appeal.

Roberts is also representing three men who claim Cossette's son, Officer Evan Cossette, used excessive force against suspects. Roberts filed three separate intents to sue the city on their behalf on March 31.

Two police officers have also hired Roberts to represent them in a complaint filed with the city claiming that Evan Cossette wasn't disciplined as severely as other officers for more serious infractions. The FBI, state police and city are investigating the complaints

Copyright 2011, Record-Journal




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