What’s going on at Lawrence Police Department?
By William Green
For three weeks there was a media buzz surrounding the Lawrence Police Department, the LPD. The Lawrence Eagle Tribune, Rumbo, Fox 25, Telemundo, ABC, and NBC all produced either articles or news segments on the story.
The first incident reported involved the improper conduct of a (LPD) police captain. Consider the fact that many prominent members of the community witnessed the captain’s behavior and that it was of such a serious nature that there is no question that the mayor had to take strong decisive action. The captain involved has been placed on administrative leave with pay.
While covering the captain’s improper conduct story, The Eagle-Tribune spoke to an LPD detective. The detective gave a statement to the newspaper regarding an open investigation into multiple high-ranking LPD officers including the chief.
The detective was told that the city had refuted his claims and denied knowledge of any investigation. The detective wanted to establish that there was, in fact, an investigation based on reported facts. He was then suspended for having gone to the mayor’s office insisting that he speak with the mayor. The mayor interpreted his language while at city hall as being hostile and threatening and handed out discipline.
In another incident, unrelated to department matters, an LPD officer was arrested in Salem, NH.
The last news released publicly regarding any of these incidents was a confirmation by way of a Facebook post. A local newspaper publisher and radio personality created a public post breaking the story of an investigation being conducted by the Office of the Inspector General of Massachusetts. It identified the chief as being a subject of the investigation. Any specific allegations are still unknown.
In the middle of this crisis within the LPD, the chief has been conspicuously absent since the first incident and he remains in apparent hiding.
About a week has passed since the latest reports came out of the LPD or city regarding the department.
The silence is deafening.
The integrity and honor of the uniform must be preserved, and enough time should be taken to evaluate the information gathered over the course of the investigation. To ensure the department functions and serves the community well, the ability of the involved individuals to properly function as working, full-duty police officers must be considered.
Are the departmental roles that the involved officers fill within the LPD, due to the nature of their conduct, compromised in any way? Is overall department function compromised in any way? Is the community at a risk in any way?
The public image of the LPD has been further damaged by all of this. While there are certainly advantages to conducting quiet investigations and behind-the-scenes interviews, what is needed is transparency. Details, such as who is conducting the internal investigation and who is running the police department is very important to the public and LPD personnel. What are the specific allegations made against the involved officers?
Police officers are public figures and are entrusted with the authority to enforce the law and keep the peace. They are held to a higher standard and their conduct should reflect this. When there is a breach of trust and displays of conduct unbecoming of an officer it should be addressed and the allegations are made public. The LPD has a tradition of hiding the truth in internal matters.
One LPD officer believes it will be business as usual and there will be no change. How many LPD officers have transferred or quit over the last eighteen months? How many more will try before a change comes?
Over the last few weeks, issues have been exposed inside the LPD and now all eyes are on city hall.