Lawsuit Filed By Police Lt. Says Former Director Used Racial Slur & Passed Him Over For Promotions

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – A New Brunswick police lieutenant recently filed a lawsuit that claims Peter Mangarella, the city's police director from March 2010 to June 2011, used a racial slur that was derogatory of African-Americans.

The suit also said that Mayor James Cahill failed to take "appropriate remedial action," when it was brought to his attention by the police union.

Last January, in his sixteenth year on the police force, Steven Middleton, an African-American officer who lives in the city, was promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

But, according to his lawsuit filed on February 29, the promotion was overdue.  It alledges that, during Middleton's time as a seargent, then-Director Peter J. Mangarella passed him over at least three times for promotions or assignments, and replaced minority officers in desirable positions with non-minority officers.

The suit also says that the department's internal affairs division pursued a supposedly false claim of excessive force against Middleton and unnecessarily referred the matter to a grand jury.

The lawsuit claims that another New Brunswick officer, who was interviewed as part of the internal investigation into Middleton, approached him and warned that Mangarella was "racist" and "out to get him."  The other officer, who is not named in the suit, also said that Mangarella used a racial epithet for African-Americans.

Middleton survived the grand jury case, but his complaint says he "felt abandoned by the department and sufferred severe emotional distress as a result of the Grand Jury proceeding."

The city government also decided to settle a civil lawsuit filed by the person who claimed to have been a victim of Middleton's excessive force, according to the paperwork.

"Notwithstanding the grand jury's no-bill and the factually baseless nature of the allegations brought against [Middleton], the City of New Brunswick settled the civil suit brought by the person who alleged the plaintiff engaged in wrongdoing," said the claim.

"The settlement of a civil suit alleging wrongdoing of a police officer has a profound effect of a police officer's reputation and this settlement negatively impacted plaintiff's career and reputation."

The case may have implications on more than just the careers of Middleton and Mangarella, who was hired to a $90,000 per year security job with the city's school district just months after his retirement from the police department.

"The heightened scrutiny of allegations against minority officers is not unusual and, upon information and belief, statistics will demonstrate disparate treatment of minority officers in this regard."

Mangarella unexpectedly retired and was surprisingly replaced by his predacessor Anthony Caputo on July 1, 2011.  Mangarella collects an annual pension of $116,405 for his servicc to the police department, in addition to his salary from the school district.

Caputo, back in his old job, continues to collect a $115,020 annual pension for his past service to the department, making for a total income of $225,020.

A spokesman for the city said that they cannot comment on pending litigation.

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Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.