Jerry Condo served as a Worcester Police officer for 14 years and is a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force National Guard with a combat tour in Afghanistan. During his time with the Worcester Police Department, he was never the subject of a citizen complaint. He was the subject of two investigations by the Bureau of Professional Services (BOPS), the internal affairs unit that investigates officer wrongdoing inside the Worcester Police Department, for alcohol-related incidents in 2017 and 2018. Both investigations were sustained. Termination was recommended.
Prior to Condo’s termination, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) designated Condo a disabled veteran due to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in connection with military service. Despite documentation from the VA that Condo was engaging in treatment for both PTSD and alcohol abuse consistently throughout 2018, then City Manager Ed Augustus signed a letter terminating the employment of this disabled veteran on Dec. 14, 2018.
According to the VA National Center for PTSD, more than two of 10 veterans with PSTD also have substance abuse disorder. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities, including mental health disabilities like PTSD.
On Feb. 28, 2019, just 76 calendar days after Condo’s employment was terminated, Worcester Chief of Police Steven Sargent introduced the department’s Stress Program. This document declares “Alcoholism is a disease and the alcoholic is a sick person requiring skilled rehabilitative assistance.” It also indicates that supervisors are responsible for early detection of problem drinking and for prompt referral to rehabilitative services. This new policy fundamentally changes how cases like Condo’s are handled within the police department.
The Worcester Police BOPS unit has issued findings widely criticized by observers. In at least one case, the standard of evidence required to hold an officer responsible appears unachievable and exonerating the officer appears to require suspending common sense. In another case, an officer filed charges against a man for assault on a police officer but video evidence emerged irrefutably showing the officer filed a false report, which is a crime in Massachusetts. Sargent justified the exoneration of that officer by calling the incident “a mistake of the head and not of the heart.”
Why the same standard was not applied to Condo is not clear. This Week in Worcester requested to speak with Chief Sargent about Condo’s case. Condo authorized that request to include his willingness to sign any release from liability the department required to enable the chief to discuss the case. The department said it would only offer the following statement in response to the inquiry:
“The Worcester Police Department recognizes the unique stresses faced by first responders and the importance of taking care of our mental health. In addition to a wellness program, officers have access to the Peer Counseling Program, Stress Officer, and a licensed psychologist. Our stress unit works closely with various service providers for veterans. We also partner with outside mental health agencies to give our officers additional options.”
Military Service to Fired Police Officer
Condo enlisted in the U.S. Air Force National Guard in 1992 and became a cable instillation/fiber optic and lineman/antenna maintenance specialist. By 2014, he was a Master Sergeant in the 212th Engineering Installation Squadron which was deployed in 2014 for 184 days. The squadron first spent 54 days at al-Udeid Air Force Base in Qatar before being deployed to Kandahar Air Force Base for 16 days and Bagram Air Force Base for 37 days, both in Afghanistan. The squadron spent 77 days in al-Dhafra Air Force Base in the United Arab Emirates before coming home in October 2014.
Documentation from the VA indicates Condo told its staff that while in Afghanistan, he was assigned a tent near a Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) unit at a base that experienced significant attacks where soldiers were killed. Public records show an attack at Bagram Air Force Base led to five casualties there on July 8, 2014, while records show Condo was stationed there.
Emerging Signs of PTSD
In a report on January 11, 2016, a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) adult nurse practitioner and readjustment counselor documented Condo reporting substantial problems falling asleep and staying asleep for over two hours, waking in cold sweats, isolating from friends and family, not participating in activities that once brought him pleasure, and always being on high alert. The report also notes that Condo recently applied for and received a job working inside the Worcester Police Department, as he couldn’t take dealing with the public as a lone police officer.
Condo says he reported to supervisors at this time that something was wrong with him, he was drinking too much, and he needed to get “off the street.” He also says this changed the way he was viewed by colleagues, who often referred to him in derogatory terms describing him as weak. His report to superiors, he says, was clearly not kept confidential. He also says that no assistance was offered to him.
The first of two disciplinary actions the department took against Condo resulted from a report written by Sergeant Donald LeRange on November 19, 2017, After Condo was late reporting for duty, LeRange said he had detected “a faint alcoholic beverage odor masked by mouth wash,” on Condo’s breath. He also added that Condo did not appear intoxicated. Condo was asked to stay in the officer’s locker room area while LeRange assisted in processing recent arrestees. When another officer went to retrieve keys to a department vehicle from Condo, that officer reported that Condo mistakenly pulled a “nip” bottle out of his pocket when retrieving the keys.
The accusations of voluntary intoxication, intake or storage of intoxicants, and criminal conduct were sustained by BOPS. When Chief Sargent signed the chief’s review document agreeing with the BOPS findings, he noted in the comments section: “Termination Recommended.” When compared to other controversial cases involving Worcester Police officers investigated by BOPS, recommending termination appears unusual after a single violation.
The finding of criminal conduct against Condo cites Chapter 269 Sect. 10H of Massachusetts General Law that prohibits carrying a firearm while under the influence.
Condo was suspended for 30 days and signed a 10 year last chance agreement.
Documents provided to This Week in Worcester show that Condo completed a seven day voluntary inpatient program at Gosnold Treatment Center in Falmouth and attended seven appointments at VA outpatient centers in Leeds and Worcester throughout 2018. Condo says the same paperwork was provided to the Worcester Police Department.
The second disciplinary action against Condo by the BOPS was initiated by Chief Sargent after Condo was placed into protective custody in Seabrook, New Hampshire, on June 30, 2018.
After requesting and receiving reports and video evidence from Seabrook Police, Sergeant Kevin Pageau of the BOPS department determined that Condo was involved in a hit and run accident involving his personal vehicle. Accusations of criminal conduct for operating under the influence, operating to endanger, open container, and leaving the scene of an accident property damage were sustained.
Condo was not charged with any crimes by the Seabrook Police Department.
A hearing officer heard Condo’s case on Sept. 27, 2018. That hearing officer issued a report on Dec. 10, 2018. Then City Manager Ed Augustus issued a letter of termination for Condo on Dec. 14, 2018.
Records provided to This Week in Worcester show the VA issued a determination on Sept. 21, 2018, that found that based on an evaluation conducted on July 14, Condo received a 50 percent combined rating evaluation for PTSD. In more direct terms, this letter officially designated Condo a disabled veteran due to PTSD in connection with military service.
The connection between PTSD and substance abuse is well established. According to the VA National Center for PTSD, more than two of 10 veterans with PSTD also have substance abuse disorder. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities, including mental health disabilities like PTSD.
On February 28, 2019, just over two months after Augustus issued the letter that terminated Condo’s employment with the City of Worcester, the Worcester Police Department issued its Stress Policy, which includes a section on Alcoholism. The policy requires that “every reasonable effort should be made to encourage and assist the employee toward recovery.” Supervisors are responsible for the early detection of problem drinking on the part of any member of his/her command and for prompt referral for rehabilitative assistance.”
According to Condo, he was never offered any of these services prior to his termination. Instead, he was referred to BOPS, which led to the termination of a disabled veteran.
This Week in Worcester filed a request for public records with the city seeking documents related to mental health support services to Worcester Police officers through department services, including services related to PTSD and the needs of military veterans.
The responsive records were links on the City of Worcester website for its Employee Assistance Program and its Personal and Professional Assistance program. The city also provided the Worcester Police Department Stress Program policy, issued in February 2019.
Recent Allegations of Chief’s Harassment of a Military Veteran
The Worcester Telegram and Gazette reported on August 17 that an officer is threatening a lawsuit against the department for what he claims is a pattern of harassment against him by Chief Sargent. The officer claims that harassment has continued after an independent investigation in 2021 determined Sargent engaged in a “campaign of reprisal” against the officer. That investigation also found that Sargent’s replies to multiple questions about his conduct were not credible.
That officer is a member of the New Hampshire Air National Guard.
The 2021 report found that Sargent called the New Hampshire Air National Guard during an activation of the officer and left a voicemail that suggested the officer “could be considered AWOL from our department” because he didn’t wait on Police Department authorization of his paperwork. The report found that Sargent knew at the time that the officer had completed his leave paperwork.
The report, authored by an investigator at the Worcester-based law firm Mirick O’Connell, advises the city to legally review the incident for a potential violation of Massachusetts law which prohibits retaliation based on military status.
The Worcester Police Department rarely terminates law enforcement personnel. According to a lawsuit filed in 2023, in the early part of the same year the commanding officer of BOPS indicated that “since 2016 Chief Sargent hadn’t sustained a single complaint for the use of excessive force.”
Certainly, a case of a police officer engaging in substance abuse should be treated seriously, especially to protect the public. When viewing Condo’s case in context with the department’s history of failing to take meaningful action when officer misconduct results in wrongful incarceration, wrongful arrest, unlawful violence against civilians and clear violations of Massachusetts law, a disabled veteran does not appear to be the greatest threat to the public.
One officer fired in 2021, Rodrigo Oliveira, was twice exonerated for claims of unreasonable force before an employee of Community Healthlink witnessed him strike a handcuffed 15-year-old boy in the head in 2015. This third unreasonable force complaint was upheld and Oliveira was suspended for forty days. After returning to work, BOPS cleared Oliveira twice more of claims of unreasonable force. He was fired in June 2021 after being found unresponsive in his home due an apparent drug overdose.
According to reporting by NBC News, neighbors reported unruly parties at Oliveira’s Hyde Street residence on eight different occasions over a three-year period prior to his overdose. Notably, none of those neighbors wanted to be named in NBC’s reporting out of fear, according to the article, .
Five unreasonable use of force complaints, consistently disturbing the neighborhood of his residence, neighbors in fear of speaking out, and a drug overdose were needed before Worcester Police Chief Steven Sargent moved to fire this officer.
Despite the accusation that Oliveira physically struck a handcuffed teen in the head, BOPS did not consider an accusation of illegal conduct against Oliveira.
The Assault on a Police Officer that Never Happened
Officer Shawn Tivnan arrested a man in downtown Worcester in 2019 and sought charges for assault on a police officer. After charges were filed surveillance video emerged showing the man he claimed assaulted him calmly engaging in discussion with another officer when Tivnan pulled the man down from behind into the area of a police k9. The man was attacked by the k9 and injured.
BOPS found this incident was due to a “policy failure.”
A lawsuit filed this year says that Sargent said “I believe it was a mistake of the head and not of the heart,” in relation to Tivnan’s actions in that case. Sargent is also quoted as saying, “I don’t think he wrote a false report intentionally.”
It is difficult to see how Tivnan somehow interpreted he was assaulted in this incident. You can judge for yourself, below.
It is a crime in Massachusetts for a police officer to prepare a false report.
Sergeant Kevin Pageau, who authored the one of the BOPS reports sustained against Condo, was one of two interrogators of a 16-year-old girl who engaged in coercive interrogation techniques to obtain a confession for murder of an infant. That girl spent nearly three years incarcerated before being released after a judge ruled the confession inadmissible.
Garry Gemme, then police chief, took to Twitter to ridicule the judge in the case. Shortly thereafter, Gemme promoted Pageau to the BOPS unit. WBUR covered that case at the time, including providing video of the interrogation.
The City of Worcester settled the case for $2.1 million.
The other interrogator in that case Det. John Doherty, was also involved in a case that led to the wrongful incarceration of Natale Cosenza for 16 years.
A civil jury found in 2022 that Sergeant Kerry Hazelhurst concealed evidence and fabricated evidence in the case that led to Cosenza’s conviction. It also found that Doherty conspired to conceal and fabricate evidence. The judge in the case ruled that Hazehurst and Doherty violated the Cosenza’s constitutional rights and are personally responsible for the $8 million judgement awarded at trial.
During cross-examination during the civil trial, Hazelhurst said he regreted none of his actions during the case.
The City of Worcester submitted a motion in the Cosenza case to be removed from the case, which was granted, leaving Hazlehurst and Doherty the only liable parties for the $8 million judgement in the case.
These three individuals are responsible for nearly 19 years of wrongful incarceration and over $10 million in civil liability while employees of the Worcester Police Department.
Pageau recently retired. Hazlehurst and Doherty remain employees of the Worcester Police Department.