MARBLEHEAD – Winthrop police Chief Terence Delehanty’s company is being paid $250 an hour by the town to investigate a 2019 incident where a former Marblehead police officer allegedly scratched a swastika into the paint of a fellow patrolman’s personal car.
An independent investigation into the swastika scratching incident is still ongoing, according to police Chief Robert Picariello. According to Picariello, there is no timeline for delivery of the report.
The allegation caused an outcry within the Jewish and wider community amid concerns about anti-Semitism and the department’s own policies and procedures regarding such matters. Several groups in town wrote to selectmen asking for more information about the incident.
“There is no timeline as to releasing the report as I don’t know when we will get it,” the chief, who is retiring in July, said in an email. “I can say that we have committed to making it as transparent a process as possible within the law.”
The investigation into the incident is being handled by a company called Law Enforcement Application and Development Strategies, or LEADS, which is run by Delehanty, who leads Winthrop’s police department. The contract, provided by Picariello, calls for the company to “review an incident that occurred in June or July of 2019 between two officers.” The contract does not have an upper limit on the amount to be paid to LEADS for its investigative services.
The review will determine which officers were involved and what they knew, and whether they violated the department’s policies, rules or regulations and “make recommendations consistent with current trends and best practices in the industry.”
Last December’s revelation about former Marblehead officer Timothy Tufts allegedly scratching a swastika into the paint of a fellow officer’s personal car in the summer of 2019 threw into question his testimony about whether another officer used excessive force during an apparent domestic incident at Miller Plaza last May, according to Picariello.
The matter that the swastika scratching case had a bearing on relates to a citizen complaint lodged by a woman after an apparent domestic incident on May 19, 2020, around 2 a.m. at Miller Plaza, 87 Pleasant St., according to a lengthy internal affairs investigation report dated Aug. 4, 2020 which Picariello provided.
Among other things, the report looked at whether Officer Christopher Gallo used excessive force against the woman, amid allegations he threw her against the wall while responding to the call with three other officers.
The report contains widely differing accounts of what happened. For instance, it states that Tufts reported Gallo “‘reacted by slamming her into the wall, which would not be reasonable for a passively resistant subject.’”
But, Gallo reported he held the woman’s “upper arm twice with one hand and never put her against the wall or any other object or caused her to go to the ground.” A sergeant at the scene testified “Gallo did hold … against the wall ‘for a split second.’” The August report concluded that given testimony of two officers at the scene and video from a 7-Eleven surveillance camera “excessive force was used” on the woman.
Gallo could have faced disciplinary action for this finding.
While Picariello could not provide the police report because it was a domestic incident, what happened can be inferred from the exhaustive and heavily redacted internal affairs investigation report.
“It was a very thoroughly done investigation,” Picariello said in an interview about the report compiled by Capt. Matthew Freeman.
However, a supplemental report written earlier this winter stated that the initial investigation included a number of findings regarding Gallo and his actions and conduct at the scene.
“Subsequent to the completion of the investigation the credibility of certain witnesses was called into question,” the supplement report states. “Upon further investigation, it was determined that other witness statements with respect to Officer Gallo’s alleged use of excessive force and his being untruthful originally relied upon were not credible, and it was determined that Gallo had not used excessive force as originally believed.”
Gallo was exonerated from allegations of using excessive force with this new review, which does not name any other person. This review also concluded Gallo’s conduct “fell below” professional standards of the department for failing to respond to dispatch and for failing to “complete a sufficiently detailed report.”
When Picariello found out about the swastika scratching incident in November “it caused us to call into question some of the testimony we relied on in the [Gallo] case,” Picariello said in an interview. That’s because the incident became known only after the investigation into excessive force was completed.
Picariello described Tufts as “a key witness in the incident.”
After the chief learned of the swastika scratching incident, Tufts was placed on paid administrative leave. Tufts resigned on Dec. 16, 2020, “and that caused problems for the previous case,” Picariello said.
Essentially, if Gallo had appealed his disciplinary action, the department may not have been able to defend that appeal. On advice of labor counsel, Picariello said, “We were able to bring the matter to a close.”