MARBLEHEAD – Police Chief Robert Picariello has hired Winthrop Police Chief Terence Delehanty’s private firm to conduct an independent administrative review into allegations that a former Marblehead police officer scratched a swastika into a fellow officer’s personal vehicle in the summer of 2019.
Delehanty’s firm, L.E.A.D.S., or Law Enforcement Applications and Development Strategies, will be paid to conduct the investigation. Picariello declined to comment on how much the firm will be paid. “The review doesn’t have a preset cost,” Picariello said in an email. “We are focusing on thorough not cost as much.”
The incident drew swift condemnation from selectmen and some leaders of the Jewish community. On Dec. 16, Picariello announced he learned Officer Timothy Tufts, who is accused of drawing the swastika, had resigned from the department.
Following the resignation, Picariello apologized for the incident, and pledged “to commission an independent administrative review and retain an outside investigator to conduct a holistic finding of fact so that we can learn all of the facts of this incident and include it in our training programs.” In addition, he also contacted the Anti-Defamation League for assistance with future training for officers.
Picariello, who plans to retire on July 2, said neither his department nor town officials would be involved with the independent review. Picariello said he planned to meet with Delehanty early this month, and expects the investigators to do “whatever it takes to do a throughout job.”
Delehanty has served on the Winthrop Police Department for almost 25 years and has been chief for more than 11 years. He is certified by the Massachusetts Commission on Discrimination as a workplace investigator and trainer, according to the Winthrop Police Department’s website.
Picariello said he has not given Delehanty any limitations when it comes to looking at the incident, including a time frame to come to a conclusion.
The incident came to the public’s attention on Dec. 16 when Picariello announced he was made aware of the allegations in mid-November.
Picariello placed Tufts, who had been with the department since 2016, on paid administrative leave on Nov. 20. The chief then began gathering the facts of what happened. Picariello said Tufts, who had never been disciplined by the department, resigned as a result of the incident.
“Today, there is no room for excuses of ignorance. The swastika is a symbol of hate and genocide, and we must speak up against acts of hate and hate speech whenever and wherever we encounter it,” Picariello said in his Dec. 16 announcement. Selectmen said in a statement the allegations do not reflect the values of the department.
Picariello later described the incident as “a thing between two officers.” “One [of the officers] did a harmless thing and [Tufts] reacted to that. It was an innocuous thing that started it,” the chief said.
Picariello said it appeared the other officer stuck a crushed-up can under Tufts’ car’s windshield wiper. Tufts is alleged to have taken the can and used it to scratch the swastika into the other officer’s personal car, the chief said. Neither officer involved is Jewish, and the department does not intend to seek hate crime charges against Tufts.
In an interview on Dec. 24, Picariello said he has spoken several times with the Anti-Defamation League of New England’s regional director, Robert Trestan, and said he hopes to have a meeting on Zoom with him in early January to figure out what kind of training programs or resources would be appropriate for every member of the department. Trestan credited the chief for taking action and recognizing the impact the incident could have on the community.
Coincidentally, the department was undergoing implicit bias training on a schedule set by the Massachusetts Municipal Police Training Committee, which sets what the department’s training will be every year, Picariello said. Implicit bias training helps officers deal with various situations by guiding them to recognize their unconscious attitudes toward those involved in an incident, the chief said. “I think we all have biases whether we know it or not,” he said.
The chief said he heard from the community shortly after announcing the incident. “I certainly got solid feedback early on when it became known and I thought it was thoughtful, but it has slowed down,” he said. “I hope everyone knows I’m horrified by this event and we have taken clear and decisive action and I hope it doesn’t happen again.”