After a night of partying in June, a Worcester police officer was rushed to the hospital and has remained on paid administrative leave for months as the department conducts an internal investigation into what happened.
But the NBC10 Investigators discovered the incident last summer was not the first sign of trouble in Officer Rodrigo Oliveira’s neighborhood.
Records reveal a pattern of loud parties and neighbor complaints about the frequent disruptions, raising questions about what city leaders did to address the repeated community concerns.
911 Calls Illustrate Neighbors’ Frustration
Internal affairs records show the topic of loud, crowded parties first landed on the desks of Worcester city leaders in October 2019. A complaint to a city councilor was forwarded to the city manager, who then alerted superiors at the police department.
The complaint stated that Oliveira had hosted a number of loud pool parties at his home on Hyde Street.
A handful of neighbors, who didn’t want to speak publicly out of fear, shared similar stories with NBC10 Boston about gatherings that spilled into their yards at all hours of the night. The noise woke up sleeping children and sometimes caused property damage.
Several neighbors described many of the partygoers as extremely young and potentially appearing to be underage. One neighbor recalled finding someone passed out in his yard the next morning.
“I just want to report a party where it seems like minors are drinking and really just being so loud, sir,” one caller told a dispatcher in a 911 recording.
A resident told NBC10 Boston the parties seemed to take place every weekend and often wrapped up around 4 a.m.
“It just didn’t make any sense whatsoever,” she said. “You might expect that from Joe Schmoe neighbor having a party and causing disruptions. But someone who is a police officer? That’s not okay.”
A police lieutenant met with neighbors about their concerns in November 2019. They told him they would be willing to drop the complaint if Oliveira controlled his guests and stopped the frequent disturbances, according to the internal affairs file.
The lieutenant instructed neighbors to call police if the problems persisted. He also alerted dispatch that a supervisor should always respond to Oliveira’s address for future calls.
“Officer Oliveira said that he understood,” the internal affairs report said.
In January 2020, the report concluded Oliveira was “exonerated” from the allegations of “discourtesy” and “awareness of activities.”
However, records show the parties and the 911 calls continued, even as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. An incident history at Oliveira’s address listed eight different “loud party” calls after the internal investigation.
“They are having a party and banging the music,” a caller described in May 2020. “It’s at the next level. You can probably hear it in the background.”
Another call from a different neighbor detailed this in September 2020: “There been a party going on for the past four weekends. There are a lot of people there. Nobody is wearing masks. And the music is so loud.”
In May 2021, another neighbor reminded the dispatcher of the precautions that were supposed to be in place: “This is an address that requires a supervisor to come out. It’s the house of a policeman.”
It’s unclear how the police department responded to those complaints and whether they took any action. Neighbors told NBC10 no matter how many times they called, nothing seemed to change.
“Every year we have the same complaint,” one frustrated caller told a dispatcher. “Maybe it’s time for you to do something, you know? He thinks he owns the city, but he doesn’t. This has got to stop.”
Medical Emergency Lands Officer on Paid Leave
In the early morning hours of June 25, the 911 call came from inside Oliveira’s home.
According to a police report, Oliveira and another Worcester police officer were unconscious when friends contacted first responders.
“He’s pretty pale. His lips are blue,” a female caller said about Oliveira’s condition in the 911 call.
“Is he breathing normally?” the dispatcher asked.
“No, he’s, like, heaving,” the woman responded.
In the background, other people could be heard shouting that an ambulance was needed immediately. The dispatcher gave CPR instructions over the phone.
“I have to ask, is there any Narcan available?” the dispatcher said.
When first responders arrived, they took both officers to the hospital. Prior to transport, paramedics treated them with something that was redacted in the police report NBC10 obtained.
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Both officers remain on paid administrative while police conduct an internal investigation, department spokesperson Lt. Sean Murtha said.
Murtha also confirmed there have been no other calls for service to the 38-year-old officer’s home since the medical emergency in June.
When reached by phone, Oliveira declined to answer questions about what happened last June or discuss his neighbors’ complaints about the parties, citing the internal investigation. He said he did not know when that would conclude.
Officer Was Already on ‘Last Chance’ Agreement
Internal affairs records indicate Oliveira was already under scrutiny for a July 2015 incident at the Burncoat Family Center.
According to documents, Oliveira punched a 15-year-old while he was in handcuffs being transported to the hospital for mental health treatment. He was also accused of inflaming the situation instead of de-escalating it by swearing at the teen shortly after arriving at the scene.
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Witnesses told police that Oliveira denied punching the teen, and said he was only defending himself after the patient spit on him. Health care personnel also said Oliveira told them he wouldn’t be pressing charges.
However, Oliveira pressed charges the following day for assaulting a police officer. According to the internal investigation, former Police Chief Gary Gemme intervened to get the charges against the juvenile dropped.
The investigation sustained allegations against Oliveira for unnecessary force, truthfulness, discourtesy and conduct unbecoming to an officer.
Following those findings, city leaders and the police union negotiated a “last chance” agreement for Oliveira, who graduated from the Worcester police academy in 2013.
The 2016 agreement said Oliveira was suspended without pay for 40 days. It also spelled out that similar violations related to use of force or truthfulness over the next decade would likely cost Oliveira his job.
City Leaders Tight-Lipped as Internal Probe Continues
Karen Blum is a police misconduct expert who taught for more than 40 years at Suffolk Law School.
“This has the appearance, even if it’s not, of the police department taking care of one of their own,” Blum said. “Given the complaints and the number of them from neighbors, something should have been done here.”
NBC10 requested an interview with Police Chief Steven Sargent to discuss how the situation was handled. Murtha said the department would not comment during the ongoing investigation.
A spokesperson for Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus said he would defer any comment to Worcester police.
Daniel Gilbert, president of the Worcester Patrolman’s Union, said he could not provide an interview during the ongoing personnel matter.
Kathleen Toomey, chair of the city council’s public safety committee, also said she would withhold any comment until police had completed their internal probe.
“All of our police officers must be held to the highest standards, and any and all complaints should be completely vetted and investigated,” Toomey said in a statement. “I look forward to the culmination of this investigation.”
Blum noted the series of party complaints occurred while Oliveira was off duty. However, she said the disrespect the officer showed to his neighbors raises questions about how he might interact with strangers in public while in uniform.
“This is an officer who needed some counseling,” Blum said. “He needed someone to step in and say, ‘You’re crossing a line here and it’s not going to be too long before the line you cross is going to cost you your job.’”