Home News Investigator sues, cites racial discrimination, insults in Queens DA’s office

Investigator sues, cites racial discrimination, insults in Queens DA’s office

A top Queens prosecutor derided a Black investigator using racially-charged insults, a civil rights lawsuit alleges.

Lt. Rachael Alvarez said in the race and gender discrimination lawsuit, filed Sunday in Manhattan State Supreme Court, that Assistant Chief Daniel O’Brien, who is white, used the insults during a stretch in which other supervisors described her as “angry,” and O’Brien called her unstable.

Eventually, the suit said, she was frozen out of meetings, with initiatives she proposed rejected.

Alvarez resigned in November, saying she was tired of the slights and innuendos — first in her 23 years with the NYPD, then with the Office of Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.


Queens DA Melinda Katz speaks during press conference at the Queens DA's Office on Tuesday. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

Barry Williams for New York Daily News

Queens DA Melinda Katz (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

“You put up with a lot because you have to,” Alvarez, 59, said in the interview. “But I finally said to myself I’m not going to do this anymore.

“I need to make sure that the person coming in after me doesn’t experience this.”

A spokesperson for the DA’s office would not comment, saying “We do not discuss personnel matters.”

Alvarez’s lawyer, John Scola, said “unstable” and “angry” are putdowns Black women too often hear in the workplace.

“Those are coded words,” he said, “racial stereotypes for an angry Black woman.”

ONE POLICE PLAZA, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2021/03/23: Attorney John Scola for NYPD Lieutenant Edwin Raymond speaks during presser in front of One Police Plaza. Edwin Raymond blew the whistle on alleged arrest quotas pushed by the department which resulted in filing federal class action lawsuit filed by 12 officers including Edwin. He also filed a Freedom of Information request about administrative subpoenas issued by NYPD. Currently he is running for the city council seat. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Attorney John Scola (Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The suit, which notes that O’Brien did not use derogatory nicknames for any other investigator, says he called her a “black pest” and a “bed bug.” The suit cites Green’s Dictionary of Slang in chraracterizing the language as derogatory and racially-charged, saying the term “bed bug” was first used to describe Black railroad porters who turned down the beds of white passengers but later evolved to mean an insignificant person or drug addict.

The suit, which also alleges that Alvarez was paid less than eight other lieutenants — five white men, one white woman, one Black man and one Hispanic — also names Katz as a defendant. Alvarez said in the interview that Katz was aware of the pay and racial issues she raised, and Scola said Katz is responsible for how her office is run and employees are treated.

Three other supervisors are also named.

Alvarez joined the DA’s office in 2015 and said she was thrilled when Katz was elected and took office in January 2020.

“I saw that she hired a diversity of people,” said Alvarez, who at the time was a sergeant. “I was on her advance team and she would introduce me as ‘my sergeant,’ like I was on display. But I understood that — she needed to have people that looked like me. I wasn’t mad about that. So why wouldn’t I think change was coming?

“But with that change came the same political nonsense.. everything changes but it still remains the same.”

Rachael Alvarez
Rachael Alvarez

The problems started when Alvarez realized she was being paid less than other sergeants, whom the suit said were all making more than $10,000 a year more than Alvarez.

O’Brien promised she would soon get a raise, but that never happened, the suit says.

At that point, Alvarez told the News, she had no desire to go any higher in the office but a new supervisor convinced her to apply for a promotion.

She did and was promoted to lieutenant — the first Black woman to hold that position in the DA’s office, the suit says — put in charge of other investigators and assigned numerous responsibilities, including trying to figure out why there was a big case backlog

That prompted a sharp backlash, Alvarez said in the interview, starting with O’Brien’s comments and continuing with efforts to undermine investigations she was involved in, push back against initiatives she had suggested and exclude her from various meetings.

​At her wit’s end, she said, she met last August with ​the  ​DA’s Office of Equal Opportunity and said she was the victim of retaliation and discrimination, a complaint that O’Brien and the other supervisors named in the suit quickly found out about. 

“I never got another case to investigate after that,” Alvarez said.


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