Former Attleboro Police Chief Richard Pierce Pays a $3,500 Civil Penalty for Conflict of Interest Law Violations
Participated in investigation involving his police officer son; improperly gave son an internal investigation report and allowed him to submit late reports
The Ethics Commission today approved a Disposition Agreement (“Agreement”) in which former Attleboro Police Department (“APD”) Chief Richard Pierce (“Pierce”) admitted to violating G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, by participating in an internal investigation involving Pierce’s police officer son and by improperly giving his son a copy of an internal investigation report. Pursuant to the Agreement, Pierce paid a $3,500 civil penalty.
According to the Agreement, Pierce’s son was involved in an arrest in February 2010 during which he used an APD Taser on the arrestee. In July 2010, the arrestee’s attorney sent a letter to Pierce, the Mayor and the City Council President informing them of his intent to file suit against the city because excessive force was used by the arresting officers. The letter named Pierce’s son as one of the arresting officers. After receiving the letter, Pierce failed to file a disclosure with the Mayor, his appointing authority, nor did he notify the Personnel Director, in accordance with a protocol that had been established for such situations. Pierce then took the following actions:
- He compiled the arrest reports, noticed that no Taser Use Report had been filed in connection with the arrest, as required by APD policy, and asked an APD Lieutenant to ascertain whether an APD Taser had been used during the arrest;
- After learning from the Lieutenant that his son had used a Taser on the date of the arrest, Pierce directed the Lieutenant to search for the Taser Use Report, since his son claimed to have filled one out. Pierce told the Lieutenant that if the report could not be found, the Lieutenant should have Pierce’s son complete and submit a new report, even though it would be submitted 5 months after the arrest. A month later, Pierce asked the Shift Commander whether he had seen a Taser Use Report submitted by his son at the time of the arrest. The Shift Commander said he had not, but would look into it; and
- On September 27, 2010, after receiving an internal investigation report prepared by the Shift Commander on his own initiative, which concluded that Pierce’s son violated APD policies and should be disciplined, Pierce met with his son. Pierce provided his son with a copy of the Shift Commander’s report, even though an official Internal Affairs investigation had not yet commenced, and recommended that his son contact his union representative. At that time, Pierce also informed his son that he (Pierce) would have no further involvement in the matter due to conflict of interest concerns.
On September 28, 2010, Pierce was contacted by the Mayor and directed to have no further involvement in the investigation. That same day, Pierce met with the Mayor and Personnel Director and, after being directed to do so, turned over all reports in his possession concerning the arrest and internal investigation. Pierce’s son’s employment with the APD was subsequently terminated as a result of the son’s conduct in connection with the arrest. Pierce retired in December 2010.
Section 19 of the conflict of interest law prohibits a municipal employee from participating as such in any particular matter in which, to his knowledge, an immediate family member has a financial interest. Section 23(b)(2)(ii) prohibits a municipal employee from knowingly, or with reason to know, using or attempting to use his official position to secure for himself or others unwarranted privileges which are of substantial value and which are not available to similarly situated individuals. According to the Agreement, Pierce violated section 19 by directing the Lieutenant to download Taser information in connection with the arrest made by his son, directing the Lieutenant and Shift Commander to look for missing reports, and giving his son the opportunity to submit late reports if the originals could not be found. Pierce violated section 23(b)(2)(ii) by giving his son the opportunity to submit reports late regarding the arrest, and by improperly providing his son with a copy of the Shift Commander’s report while the APD Internal Affairs investigation into the arrest was pending.
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