By G. Michael Dobbs
CHICOPEE – Police Chief Thomas Charette said the review of several internal affairs cases conducted by investigator Michael Pavone Sr., is a tool he will use to help revise department polices and procedures, although he added that some of the recommendations were put into place before he received the report.
Charette stressed, however he is “not revisiting” any of the resolved cases examined by Pavone, including the incident in which unauthorized cell phone photos were taken of the late Amanda Plasse.
Charette also disagreed with one of the major conclusions of the report of a division in the department between officers who are loyal to him and those who support Deputy Chief William Jebb as chief.
Jebb was a candidate for the job and is appealing through Civil Service the decision to promote Charette to chief.
Charette said the “division” – a word, which he believes denotes a 50 percent split between the officers – closer to 10 percent.
“It’s way overstated,” Charette told Reminder Publications.
He continued, “A lot of guys have come in and talked to me [about it.]”
Charette said the Chicopee department participated in a yearlong study conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago on police leadership. Charette said the national average overall of the satisfaction on leadership expressed by officers was 52 percent. When comparing departments the size of Chicopee’s the average rating was 62 percent. The Chicopee ranking came in at 70 percent.
The review of the cases and the way they were handled by the police officials had been authorized by Mayor Michael Bissonnette in light of his learning of the cell phone photos of Plasse and the disciplinary actions given to the officers involved. Bissonnette said last summer when he announce the review would take place he wanted to give Charette “a clean slate” as the new chief.
The report, dated Dec. 4, examined the Plasse incident as well as an altercation in which one officer drew and pointed his service weapon and pointed it at another officer from 2007; a 2012 case in which an officer, “who appeared to be intoxicated,” discharged his personal firearm in the driveway of his home and how the protective custody order was handled; an alleged assault on a woman being booked that involved the use of a “throat/chock hold;” the accidental shooting of one officer by another officer during a training session from 2013.
Pavone wrote as conclusion of the report, “As previously mentioned, none of the earlier investigative matter have been re-investigated and although some of the numerous inquiries have been reviewed, not all are contained in this report. To conduct a re-investigation would certainly be a futile endeavor given the animosity that pervades the department at this time.”
Pavone said there were two “predominant areas of concern, which are not conducive to a harmonious working atmosphere within the Chicopee Police Department.” One is “the distinct division based on who would be the chief of police and why … Although this matter is not directly related to the recommendations to be made in this report, it certainly becomes a factor in that whoever is the chief in the future he must consider changing the way the guidelines if the department are structured and enforced.”
Pavone continued, “Second, the internal complaint process and its resolutions must be more transparent, consistent, timely and most importantly, fair and equitable to all members of the department. At the present time, there appears to be an atmosphere that members are treated differently based on their allegiances, both regards to the administered discipline and the severity of the sanctions; and/or whether an investigation will or will not be initiated. In this area, members are left to wonder whether they will face administrative sanctions on factors other than the guidelines of the department, i.e. personalities and/or past loyalties, which appear to have a profound negative impact.