<p>Fitchburg Police Chief Ernest Martineau was OK with the idea of increased transparency into police departments after the state Legislature passed a police reform bill at the end of 2020, but a recent list of officer disciplinary records has left police officials like Martineau “disappointed” in how parts of the process have unfolded.</p><p>The Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, which was created by the reform bill, released a <a href="https://www.mass.gov/info-details/officer-disciplinary-records-database" target="_blank" rel="noopener">list</a> last month containing disciplinary records for individual officers across the state going back to the 1980s. While officials like Martineau praised the idea behind the list and the transparency it is supposed to provide, they took issue with what they said were inaccuracies and omissions from the list after the individual police departments provided “mountains of records” to the commission.</p><p>“Myself and my colleagues are very disappointed,” Martineau said in an Aug. 30 phone call.</p><p>A potential source of the problem, Martineau said, was that the police chiefs were never allowed to see the list generated by the POST Commission before it was released to the public last month, which he said would have avoided the list being released with inaccuracies.</p><p>“I can’t tell you how many man hours went into getting that information to POST,” said Martineau. “Then they put it out there without an opportunity for us to review it.”</p><p>While there was no information in the list from Fitchburg that Martineau said was explicitly incorrect, he said eight or nine of the nearly 30 disciplinary incidents that they sent to the commission never ended up on the final list.</p><p>A similar situation played out for the list of officers in Lowell. The version released by POST included 19 officers' names, though some were known to be omitted based on previous reporting of incidents.</p><p>Lowell Police Superintendent Greg Hudon said that while he was proud of his department for having a small number of disciplinary incidents on the list relative to the size of the city and department, he and the department would work with POST further to ensure that the list can be released again with the correct information.</p><p>“As the 5th largest community in the Commonwealth to have less than 1% of Officers in the state listed by POST is a testament to hard work and professionalism of the men and women of the Lowell Police Department,” Hudon said in an Aug. 31 email. “Unfortunately, POST has acknowledged some errors and omissions related to their release of information. POST has identified many root causes of these mistakes, ranging from unintentional errors in data submission to faults in the way the newly created systems processed some of the information sent to them. The Lowell Police Department is in the process of reviewing the released information to ensure accuracy and will continue to work with the POST commission.”</p><p>The POST list for Lowell is known to not include at least two names: Michael Giuffrida and Michael Kilmartin, who were each disciplined after a January 2013 incident in which Lowell resident <a href="https://www.lowellsun.com/2015/07/07/updated-lowell-settles-with-brame-family-over-womans-death-in-police-custody/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Alyssa Brame</a> died of alcohol poisoning in police custody. Giuffrida was eventually suspended for 15 days after facing a one-year suspension, while Kilmartin was temporarily demoted and suspended 45 days.</p><p>The other three officers implicated in Brame's death by the Police Department's Board of Inquiry and subsequently disciplined — James Fay, Francis Nobrega and Thomas Siopes — were included in the POST Commission list, as was William Florence, who received a written reprimand related to the incident.</p><p>POST Commission spokesperson Alia Spring said in an Aug. 30 email that the commission had received a lot of feedback from police departments on errors and omissions in the list, and they are working to release a corrected version.</p><p>“We are reviewing all reports of possible corrections. We plan to release an updated database soon,” said Spring.</p><p>In a statement on the POST Commission website, they said they were aware of the omission of the complete records of three whole departments, and encouraged police departments to continue working with them to resolve the issues in the list. An initial update was made to the list on Friday, with a note indicating further corrections and updates would be forthcoming.</p><p>To Massachusetts Association for Professional Law Enforcement President Dennis Galvin, the issues surrounding the accuracy of the POST Commission list likely stem from a poor job defining the criteria for what should be reported, something he said he saw them struggle to do in meetings going back to February.</p><p>“What ended up happening is that the parameters were not clearly defined. It left the discretion of reporting solely to the chiefs of police,” said Galvin. “If you are going to be printing something that may be detrimental to some people, you may want to properly vet that information first.”</p><p>Galvin, a retired Massachusetts State Police major from Westford, has been an <a href="https://www.lowellsun.com/2020/08/24/former-state-police-major-turns-eye-to-police-reform/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">advocate</a> for police reform, but said that the POST Commission’s list was done with a poor execution.</p><p>“There was someone on there that was listed as suspended, but it was a suspension of their ability to work details, not a suspension of their job,” Galvin said as one example.</p><p>The spirit behind the list, Galvin said, was to deal with serious cases of misconduct where officers used serious force on someone, engaged in criminal conduct or were untruthful in any way. By publishing a list with so many errors and omissions, Galvin said, it in some ways jeopardizes the idea of police reform, as it leaves people wondering about the POST Commission’s credibility.</p><p>“POST got themselves into a little bit of a hole they have to dig out from,” said Galvin. “I don’t think they are malevolent, but someone may not have realized the significance of the information they were working with.”</p><p>Galvin said that while he still supports the idea of police reform, he has been disappointed in two things. The first is that there is less emphasis on police education requirements, which he said is essential due to the sheer complexity of the job of being a police officer.</p><p>“This job is so complex and involves a lot of different disciplines. You can’t bring someone in on just a high school degree,” said Galvin. “Like with a mental health crisis, officers should be able to at least distinguish between different mental illnesses when responding to a mental health crisis. They don’t have to diagnose it or treat it, but they should be able to recognize it.”</p><p>Galvin’s second problem with the reform process is he feels the state and POST Commission are coming at the issue with almost an inherent suspicion of the police, while he thinks actual police officers should be involved in the reform process because of their real world experience.</p><p>“The commission has nine members and only three of them have been officers, one of them is a chief,” said Galvin. “It needs a much larger policing background, and they need the expertise level to judge what actually happens.”</p>
FITCHBURG — In a move supported by both officers and citizens, the city has joined many others across the country in taking a giant step forward in law enforcement reform.
Police Chief Ernest Martineau joined the rest of his officers on July 3, by affixing a body camera to his uniform before going to work. He said the move has been 3 years in the making but is well worth the effort.
“The level of policing it now creates is extraordinary,” said Martineau, who has worked in the force for 37 years. “All of our interactions are being recorded. It brings a level of transparency greater than we have ever seen.”
While protection of the public was paramount in the decision to begin using them, body cameras also help protect officers, Martineau said.
“It’s going to protect them, and it’s going to protect the public, from misallegations,” he said. “I’ve already seen it.”
Following a recent foot chase between an officer and a subject, the subject came back to the police station days later to claim the officer acted inappropriately when taking him into custody. Upon his request to file a complaint against the officer, Martineau asked if he could review the camera footage before the man went forward with the complaint.
“I reviewed the body cam footage and it was 100% the opposite of what the guy was saying,” the chief said.
After showing the footage to the man, he said the individual decided not to file the complaint.
The body cameras are initiated in three different ways; when the officer turns on his cruiser’s blue strobe lights; removes his firearm from its holster; or presses the button on the front of the camera twice.
But in incidents like the recent foot chase, there is typically a moment that the camera wouldn’t catch right before the officer presses the button and begins the chase. In situations like that, Martineau said that a 30-second passive recording mode for the body cameras helps cover that portion of the incident. As soon as the officer presses the button twice the past 30 seconds are added to the video that has begun recording.
Martineau said that since July 3, police officers in the city have already logged over 3,000 evidence files, which are available to anyone upon an official public record request, with the exception of portions redacted to protect privacy and other sensitive information.
Of the three main phases the department went through to bring the body cameras to Fitchburg, Martineau said the hardest part wasn’t getting the $160,000 federal grant to pay for the 90-plus body cameras but finding the recurring revenue every year for the cloud storage of the non-stop deluge of evidence files pouring into the department’s data bank. Equal to that was the task of negotiating with the police union to add the new equipment in way that would be acceptable to both sides.
For example Martineau said he was able to negotiate the 30-second passive recording and, at the same time, agreed to the stipulation that officers did not have to wear them during extra pay traffic details.
“That was a concession on my part, but ya know what? They’re wearing them anyways,” he said of officers voluntarily wearing the cameras during overtime traffic detail.
As soon as the video is complete, it’s sent directly to their cloud storage, where the officers can immediately search for the file and review it.
The use of deadly force is the one time that he doesn’t want officers reviewing the footage immediately.
“When you use utilize deadly force you want to be able to articulate what your perception was, not so much what was on the camera,” Martineau said. “Any time deadly force is used the officer’s perception at that moment in time is more valuable than the video footage because perception is individualized. That was one [other issue] where I went back and forth with the union.”
State Police Col. Christopher Mason is retiring effective next Friday, the Healey administration announced late Friday afternoon, creating a vacancy in the superintendent’s job that Gov. Maura Healey will now be able to fill with someone from inside or outside the State Police ranks.
Mason’s retirement on Feb. 17 will cap a law enforcement career of nearly 40 years, including three decades at the Massachusetts State Police. Gov. Charlie Baker tapped Mason in November 2019 to take over atop the agency at a time of scandal and turmoil. Last week, the State Police announced that it earned full accreditation from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission.
Mason said he wanted to thank the Baker and Healey administrations “for placing their trust in me and providing the support and resources needed to promote public safety, implement meaningful reforms, and adopt transformative innovations that strengthen our ability to protect the Commonwealth and provide the highest level of professional policing to all Massachusetts residents and visitors.”
“I also want to thank the members of the Massachusetts State Police for your professionalism, dedication, and exceptional delivery of police services across the Commonwealth. It has been my true privilege to work alongside you,” he said.
Mason’s retirement announcement, which the governor made on a Friday afternoon while she is in Washington D.C. at meetings with other governors, said the Healey administration “will soon announce next steps in regard to leadership at the Massachusetts State Police.”
The policing reform law that Baker signed at the end of 2020 eliminated the requirement that a governor look exclusively within the State Police when appointing a new colonel. State law calls for the governor to appoint a colonel “upon the recommendation of the secretary of public safety and security.” The law requires that the colonel “have not less than 10 years of full-time experience as a sworn law enforcement officer and not less than 5 years of full-time experience in a senior administrative or supervisory position in a police force or a military body with law enforcement responsibilities.”
Mason was a 26-year State Police veteran who was working in the number-two role when Baker picked him to take the reins in 2019. His other roles with the agency included stints as a detective and as director of the Fusion Center, which coordinates intelligence with multiple state and federal law enforcement agencies.
“Colonel-Superintendent Mason’s dedication to duty and selfless public service has earned the respect and trust of his department and the community around him,” Healey said in a statement. “His decades-long career in law enforcement exemplified core values of integrity, fairness, and dignity, and we are fortunate to have benefitted from his steady leadership in Massachusetts. I am grateful for his service to the state and wish him the very best in his well-earned retirement.”
The State Police said that it “advanced several major initiatives to enhance public safety, implement meaningful reforms, and adopt transformative innovations” during Mason’s tenure as colonel, including modernized training, updated policies, implementation of body-worn and cruiser-mounted cameras, GPS monitoring of the cruiser fleet, and advanced diverse recruitment efforts.
Given this before-mentioned nationwide laser scrutiny of police behavior, the residents of this state should feel fortunate that their officers demonstrate a high level of professional conduct.
That’s reflected in the roughly 98% of them to date that have passed muster in the state’s newly instituted recertification process, and the ongoing professional development that takes place in individual police departments.
For example, the Lowell Police Department recently announced the expansion of its Training Division to include two full-time officers dedicated to the use of force, firearms and defensive tactics.
The training includes de-escalation techniques and less-lethal options.
Acting Superintendent Barry Golner stated that officers Anthony Webb and David Couture would join the division.
“Having two officers dedicated to training will improve the continuity and consistency in the training sessions all of our officers go through,” Golner said.
Golner also revealed he department will transition to a new firearm in the coming year. Police will also be adding a new less-lethal option to their equipment. Both the firearm and less-lethal option will require “multiple days of training” for all officers, according to the release.
The Training Division is responsible for coordinating and hosting yearly in-service training, the Lowell Police Academy and firearms training. The division currently consists of a lieutenant, sergeant, two officers and a civilian administrative assistant.
According to the release, Webb and Couture have “extensive experience with firearms, defensive tactics and use of force trainings.”
Police must constantly adjust the changing circumstances they face, which requires new tactics to meet these changing situations.
It can’t ensure that police won’t make mistakes in the heat of the moment, only that they’ll be the exceptions that prove the rule of their professional conduct.
LOWELL — The Lowell police officer set to stand trial in May for allegedly raping a homeless 16-year-old girl had his certification suspended by the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission.
The POST Commission announced on Tuesday that Kevin Garneau, 53, a 19-year veteran of the force, charged with two counts of rape, was among the 15 officers targeted by the commission.
The POST Commission was established in 2020 as part of the state’s criminal justice reform law aimed at improving public safety and increasing trust between members of law enforcement and the public. The commission is charged with creating a mandatory certification process for police officers and a process to decertify, suspend or reprimand officers.
The commission is required to immediately suspend the certification of any officer who is arrested, charged or indicted for a felony. It may also initiate an inquiry into the conduct of an officer who is arrested, charged or indicted for a misdemeanor.
Lowell Police Acting Superintendent Barry Golner said there is no change to Garneau’s status with the department based on the commission’s decision.
Garneau has been on unpaid leave from the department since he was indicted in 2019. At that time, Golner said Garneau’s law enforcement credentials, including his department-issued gun and badge, were seized.
“It’s more technical at this point, because there’s no change to his status with regard to his employment with the city of Lowell,” Golner said.
Garneau, of Pelham, N.H., served as a member of the Community Opioid Outreach Program, a collaboration between the Lowell Police and Fire departments, Lowell House rehabilitation center and Trinity EMS. As part of his duties with the COOP, Garneau would visit recent overdose victims to help them find treatment.
It was during his time with the COOP that Garneau came in contact with the alleged victim, who was homeless and addicted to heroin.
Garneau is accused of raping the teen three times inside a tent within a two-month period in 2016, said Thomas Brant, of the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, during Garneau’s arraignment in Middlesex Superior Court in June 2019.
Garneau’s trial is scheduled to begin on May 1. He faces up to 20 years in prison on each count of rape.
Golner said an internal investigation to determine Garneau’s future employment will begin following the trial’s conclusion.
“The internal investigation has less of a burden of proof,” Golner said. “It’s not beyond a reasonable doubt, it’s preponderance of the evidence. But we’ll leave that up to the investigating officers at the time.”
Garneau’s attorney, Robert Normandin, described the commission’s decision to suspend Garneau’s certification as “very unfortunate.”
Normandin has repeated in the past that his client has maintained his innocence since the day the accusations surfaced.
“We are both certainly looking forward to this matter being over and for him to resume his career,” Normandin said.
Among the other names on the POST Commission’s list of officers who had their certification suspended was Ernest Fontaine, a former Fitchburg State University Police officer.
According to a statement from the university, Fontaine was placed on administrative leave on March 1 when the university learned of his criminal conduct. He was fired on July 2.
The statement says Fontaine’s alleged conduct did not occur on campus nor did it involve anyone affiliated with Fitchburg State.
According to the commission, an officer whose certification is suspended can request a hearing before a commissioner within 15 days. A suspension order is in effect until a final decision or revocation is made.
To view the full list of officers whose certifications were suspended, visit mass.gov/orgs/post-commission.
Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis
FITCHBURG — The hot button subject of police reform is at the core of a recently published book by a former police chief, who culled from over three decades of law enforcement experience to offer his perspective on the issue.
Former Fitchburg and Gardner Police Chief Edward Cronin said he was inspired to pen “Just Policing: My Journey to Police Reform” after seeing the global unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd, a Black civilian, at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer.
“I, like many people, was taken back by all the pushback and violence that resulted from incidents related to the Black Lives Matter movement,” Cronin said. “I saw in this an opportunity to tell my story and offer how policing can be done differently and more effectively in the future.”
Cronin reached out to Dayna Kendall, who serves as the Restorative Justice Interventionist in the Ayer Shirley Regional School District, to co-author the book published in June.
He said it is “part memoir and a story of all my career experience and my views about police reform today, especially in light of all the controversy that’s been going on over the last two years.”
Cronin served as police chief in Fitchburg for five years, from 2002 to 2007, and in addition to his three years as chief in Gardner has nearly a decade of extensive international experience working with the U.S. Department of State.
One of seven siblings, he grew up in Fitchburg and graduated from the high school in 1971, where he has lived for most of his life — except when living overseas while working internationally. In total, his career of public service spans 35 years.
Cronin said his time in law enforcement in the city is an especially integral part of the detailed book — that according to the description — offers possibilities and solutions to fix the broken criminal justice system.
It is a story of the police empowering communities to overcome issues from deep systemic racism to international crime and corruption, and to do so in a way that has brought about tremendous healing and growth to all places and locations that he has worked.
“One direct example is told by how Fitchburg once had a murder rate higher than Boston and a minority dropout rate of over 40% at our high school, and what was done during that time to leverage long term sustainable change that through the efforts of many have resulted today in Fitchburg experiencing one murder last year and a dropout rate of 8% for minorities,” Cronin said. “I believe there is a great story of Fitchburg’s success that needs to be shared with other communities.”
He said one aspect of the work they did in the city while he served as chief was to “stop doing things the same old way over and over again and getting failed results.”
“Enforcement was increased dramatically but there was no drop in crime,” he recalled. “It wasn’t until we began to build relationships between the police and the minority community did the trust evolve that led to the results we are seeing today.”
The book, which is available on Amazon and other platforms in paperback and ebook formats, has been well received in the greater community and beyond as well as among fellow law enforcement officials.
Cronin said the most common feedback he hears is “I could not put it down,” and a recent review written by former two-time Police Commissioner of the New York City Police Department and the former Los Angeles Chief of Police William Bratton, whom Cronin believes is “the most respected and accomplished law enforcement executive and officer in the country,” solidifies the impact the book is capable of making.
Bratton wrote he was reminded of a quote from the late NYPD First Deputy Commissioner John Timoney while reading the book: “Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it, and those who know policing know we don’t study history.”
“Ed Cronin clearly knows police history, both good and bad, the highs and lows and recognizes that it is consistently evolving and reforming; reform that he has consistently throughout his career sought to inform, improve and change. Now with his thoughtful new book he continues on that quest,” Bratton wrote.
“Those who care about policing will recognize the police professions importance to our Democratic society and form of government,” Bratton continued. “This book is a valuable addition and contribution to the efforts to always seek to improve it. Like myself, Ed Cronin is a Peelian, an admirer of Sir Robert Peel, whose Nine Principles of Policing provided the platform in 1829 upon which he built the London Metropolitan Police Service.”
Bratton also added those principles are “even more appropriate and applicable today in the 21st Century. This book is another plank in the platform and a valuable addition to the continuing effort to improve and reform policing in a democracy.”
Cronin said the biggest takeaway he hopes readers will gather from the book is that he “would like people to understand that the police are just a direct mirror of society, that police officers are honorable and trustworthy and can use their power to make positive change to a more inclusive and democratic society.”
Cronin and Kendall are already discussing plans for another book and will be holding a book signing from noon to 4 p.m., Saturday, at Barnes & Noble in Leominster.
For more information on their combined efforts visit justpolicing.org.