MARBLEHEAD – At least nine Marblehead police officers and supervisors – or about one-third of the town’s department – were aware that a fellow officer scratched a swastika on another officer’s car and failed to report the incident, according to an independent report released Aug. 4.
Members of the department stayed silent for almost 18 months, violating a department rule requiring them to report violations by other officers, until word of the incident reached former police chief Robert Picariello, who retired in July.
The 59-page report – which took more than six months to complete – was compiled by Winthrop Police Chief/Interim Town Manager Terence Delehanty, who is also an attorney and was hired to investigate as principal of Law Enforcement Application Development Strategies.
The report includes interviews conducted over Zoom with 21 members of the department. One of those interviewed, Office Andrew Dimare, owned the car that was etched with the swastika, allegedly by Timothy Tufts, on July 1, 2019. Tufts was later placed on administrative leave before he resigned in December 2020.
The report found that “Tufts allegedly committed the crime of felony vandalism,” in the incident, but not a hate crime under state law, since neither Tufts nor Dimare are Jewish. The report also stated that Tufts did not receive preferential treatment for not being charged because Dimare did not want to press charges, a practice consistent with the way the department handles civilian complaints.
The report said Dimare told former Chief Picariello “that he ‘just wanted the whole thing to be over with.’”
The report also stated “Tufts’ conduct on this occasion was highly unprofessional and clearly related to religion.”
Tufts did not respond to multiple requests from Delehanty to be interviewed.
The report also found that department policies and procedures on reporting the incident were not followed “to various degrees.”
Marblehead Selectmen held a Zoom meeting on Aug. 5 with Delehanty and the department’s new police chief, Dennis King, who said he plans an administrative review of the incident and the aftermath.
The incident has raised concerns from residents about antisemitism and racism in the department after Picariello went public with the accusation on Dec. 16, 2020.
Laurie Barham, who is Jewish, questioned why Picariello did not learn about the incident until more than a year after it happened. “Was he out of touch? Was he somebody who could not be approached? I just find that the two options are a little disturbing,” she said.
The report concluded that the first time Captain Matthew Freeman or Picariello heard about the swastika incident was Nov. 13, 2020.
Helaine Hazlett, cochair of Marblehead’s Task Force Against Discrimination, thanked Delehanty “for his excellent work. It was very much in depth. I trust all that was said.”
Resident Yael Magen, who is Jewish, said she was disappointed the report was not published before Picariello’s retirement last month.
“I think it would have been very beneficial both for the community, for the police force, as well as for the chief to take accountability, basically, and be here tonight to answer our questions instead of having Chief King answer the questions of something that he just does not know,” Magen said.
“One of the main points that I was a little disappointed that wasn’t mentioned a lot in the report, was the atmosphere we have in our town for swastikas,” said Magen. “We did have a police officer who felt that it was OK for him to do that kind of action, [which] I think says a lot about where we are, and it’s very surprising to me because I love Marblehead and I’ve never felt anybody discriminate against me.”
Liz Weinstein does not know why Tufts chose to scratch a swastika on Officer Dimare’s car, “but to that end, Officer Dimare made it his choice to not report that and potentially put the community at risk.” She said she was dismayed Dimare is still a police officer in town.
King, the new chief, said he respected her analysis, “but that isn’t mine.” King said Dimare “has shown only exemplary actions.”
Weinstein asked about the department’s policy for officers to report potentially dangerous situations, and King said reporting through the chain of command is something they are going to work on.
Delehanty’s report singled out nine officers and supervisors who – to varying degrees – appeared to have violated a rule requiring them to report violations committed by other officers.
The report stated at least four officers and two supervisors “had either firsthand knowledge of or heard about the incident from a person with firsthand knowledge.”
That includes Tufts and Dimare, who the report said violated the rule by not reporting what happened during a shift change around 11:45 p.m. The incident, the report stated, appears to have been triggered when “Dimare had found a tin can on the ground and put it under the windshield wiper of Tufts’ personal motor vehicle as a joke.”
According to the report, Dimare did eventually come forward. He is well-respected within the department and said that he wanted to handle the situation himself, the report stated.
Another officer, Nicholas Michaud, saw the damage just after it occurred, knew what Tufts had done, and, because of this, he violated the reporting rule, according to Delehanty’s report.
The report also singled out Sgt. Jason Conrad, who encountered Tufts and Michaud shortly after the incident happened in the church parking lot across the street from the station; and Officer Christopher Gallo, who learned of what happened while on leave for an unrelated incident for which he was later cleared. Gallo would wind up reporting the swastika scratching incident to the town, so the report concluded he did not violate the reporting rule.
The Delehanty report also provided mitigating factors for several officers who heard about the incident through the grapevine.
Lt. Michael Everett told Delehanty he spoke privately with Dimare a few days after the incident and asked him “How do you want me to handle it? Do you want me to address him?” Dimare told Everett he didn’t want the lieutenant to do anything, that he wanted to deal with Tufts directly, and he was going to buff out the damage.
Everett told Delehanty, “in retrospect,” he should have reported the incident.
The report said another three supervisors knew of the incident through the rumor mill before Tufts was placed on leave in November 2020, and two of the three failed in their obligation to report it.
Three other officers heard rumors inside the station before Tufts was placed on leave, and they should have reported it, though “an Officer in Charge already had knowledge of the Incident before any of the officers … heard the rumors,” the report said.
Officer Daniel Gagnon talked with those involved, but because he is the police union representative, the report could not say if he violated the reporting rule because his conversations with officers may be protected.
Another two officers and four dispatchers learned what happened only after Tufts was placed on leave, the report states.
It’s unclear if any of the officers who sat on what happened will face disciplinary action.
A statement from King and Town Administrator Jason Silva said: “After an administrative inquiry completed by the Chief of these violations is done, a decision will be made on the appropriate remedial measures to take.”
The report stated that when someone with authority like a police officer uses a hate symbol like a swastika “it creates mistrust, especially among the Jewish members of the community in which they serve.”
However, officers interviewed said they had not heard Tufts make disparaging statements about anyone’s race, religious creed, national origin, or other personal characteristics, and they said they never heard Tufts or other officers making antisemitic remarks.
Some officers told the investigator the incident seemed like a back-and-forth between two officers, though others could not rule out that this was a hate incident.
“I can’t think of a worse thing to draw or carve on anybody’s vehicle,” said Lt. Jonathan Lunt in the report.
Delehanty told the Board of Selectmen it was his opinion this was not a hate crime based on case law and facts.
“After all those interviews, and certainly people in the police department were offended that a swastika was used and upset and rightfully so, but where Officer Dimare was not in a protected category articulated in the general law, I could not find that the crime itself was one of a hate crime toward Officer Dimare,” Delehanty said. King said his department, in consultation with the district attorney’s office, stood by the decision not to bring a hate crime charge.
To read the full report, go to www.marblehead.org, where it’s listed under the “News” tab.