MARBLEHEAD – The resignation letter of the former police officer who allegedly scratched a swastika into the paint of a fellow officer’s car in the summer of 2019 – an incident which only came to light this past November – does not shed any new light on the incident.
And, while a four-page letter written in response to two letters to the town – one by a group of residents including Anne Stevenson and the other by the Marblehead Racial Justice Team – answer some questions they have posed, it leaves any detailed findings to a report commissioned to look into it. In the interest of following “the facts of the case,” there has been no deadline set for when the report is to be finished.
The Jan. 25 letter was referenced during a Jan. 27 Zoom meeting of the Selectmen and provided to the Jewish Journal by Town Administrator Jason Silva on Feb. 8 after a request was made by the Journal. The town also provided additional information about the qualifications of Winthrop police Chief Terence Delehanty, who was hired by police Chief Robert Picariello and the town to conduct an outside review of the incident. Picariello is planning to retire at the beginning of July.
“This incident has resulted in conversations with many residents who have expressed opinions and concerns and have also shared feelings that have varied from anger to sadness and from disappointment to reflection,” Silva wrote. “I think it’s fair to say that it’s not only residents who are feeling this way but town officials as well. We all understand that this incident does not reflect the values of the Police Department, the Board of Selectmen, and the Community and, as important, we collectively stand committed to address it.”
On Dec. 16, Picariello announced that in mid-November, he learned about an incident in which former Officer Timothy Tufts “allegedly scratched a swastika into the paint of another officer’s personal vehicle.” Picariello, following the department’ policies and procedures, gathered the facts, and placed the officer on paid leave, he said. The chief was informed that afternoon Tufts had resigned after more than four and a half years on the force.
Tufts, The Salem News reported, had also served a tour in Afghanistan in the Marine Corps in 2011. The chief said in a prior interview he had never been disciplined. His resignation letter dated on the afternoon of Dec. 16 read: “Dear Chief Picariello: I resign, effective immediately, from my position as a police officer in the Marblehead Police Department. Respectfully, Timothy Tufts.”
Silva’s letter noted that the investigation, which the town was not required to do but felt was necessary, is not the only way Marblehead is dealing with the incident. The officer is no longer working for the town, which has had active conversations with the Anti-Defamation League on ways to educate and train officers and the public.
In his Dec. 16 statement, Picariello apologized and said he was disturbed and dismayed by the incident. He contacted the Anti-Defamation League of New England for training and pledged to conduct an independent administrative review.
Picariello said in a later interview he had no knowledge of the incident until he found out about it in November 2020. He has also said he is not involved in the investigation. No hate crime charges are being sought in connection with the incident. Neither officer involved is Jewish.
The incident sparked letters and questions to the Board of Selectmen, including one from the Marblehead Racial Justice Team’s executive team, which said “that this incident was not publicly disclosed for many months and that the officer was not fired and charged with a crime is deeply troubling.”
The letter suggested several ways to improve the department’s training and community policing, and asked that civilians be included in the investigation.
“While we understand that Winthrop Police Chief Terence Delehanty has a good reputation, we advocate that a neutral, outside civilian authority, be included in the investigation to minimize appearances of impropriety, and improve public trust in the investigation,” the Racial Justice Team’s letter said.
Stevenson’s letter touched on similar themes about the need for diversity in the department, about what, if any role Picariello should play in the investigation. The letter asked about how many officers were present and witnessed the incident, and asked how many officers were placed on leave in the past two years – among many other questions.
Silva believes that “resident involvement, frequent communication, and public scrutiny” are essential, and that there has been, before this incident, dialogue between the Racial Justice Team, the Task Force Against Discrimination, the chief, the ADL, and others. His letter also addressed questions as to why there were not more black, indigenous and people of color and women on the Police Department, highlighting efforts to create more affordable housing with a new Housing Production Plan, and demographic data showing how the town lacks diversity. About 7 percent of residents are nonwhite, compared with 28 percent for Essex County and 12 percent on the North Shore. “The town ranks as the fourth least diverse municipality of all the context communities, behind Duxbury, Topsfield, and Ipswich,” wrote Silva, citing U.S. Census Bureau data.
Silva did not provide answers to numerous specific questions about the incident in the two letters the town received. “I believe most if not all of your questions will be answered when we get the report and findings of fact,” Silva wrote.
Silva’s letter also addressed concerns about Delehanty’s qualifications to conduct the review through his company, LEADS, or Law Enforcement Applications and Development Strategies.
“We strongly believe that Chief Delehanty is well equipped to perform this investigation based on his education, professional experience, credentials and training,” Silva wrote.
Delehanty has been the Winthrop chief since 2009, after joining it as a reserve officer in 1995. He holds degrees from North Shore Community College, the University of Massachusetts, Suffolk University and the Massachusetts School of Law.
Delehanty is also a licensed attorney in the Bay State, Silva said. He is also a member of the Board of the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services, the Board of the Community for Restorative Justice, the Association of Workplace Investigators, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Internal Affairs Investigators Association.
In addition, he is certified by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination as a workplace investigator and trainer, and by the Association of Workplace Investigators. “He is also a certified Municipal Police Training Counsel instructor,” Silva wrote.
Delehanty also served as the interim Town Manager of Winthrop from September 2017 to April 2018. He attended the FBI National Academy in 2012 and is a professor at Cambridge College in Boston.
“For clarity’s sake,” Silva said, “Chief Picariello and the Town have instructed Chief Delehanty to follow the facts of the case,” said Silva, who added that Delehanty is directing the investigation himself “to ensure an unbiased and independent review is conducted.”