The hearing for Lowell Police Lieutenant Thomas Siopes, whom the city seeks to fire for his role in the death of Alyssa Brame, continued into its fourth day yesterday, with one of Siopes's attorneys arguing that the policy Siopes is accused of violating was never disseminated.
On January 12, 2013, Brame was arrested by Lowell police for allegedly soliciting sex, fell unconscious, and ultimately died of alcohol poisoning while in police custody.
The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute anyone for Brame’s death, but an internal Board of Inquiry review by the police department found that six police officers and two civilian employees violated department policies, possibly contributing to Brame’s death. Police left Brame alone in a cell for over an hour after she lost consciousness. When she was finally checked on and found unresponsive, another 15 minutes passed before anyone called 911. The Board of Inquiry report notes that the department “has had a long-standing policy of ‘At no time will an unconscious prisoner be placed into a cell. Unconscious prisoners shall be examined by trained medical individuals as soon as possible.’”
Several of the employees involved in Brame’s death were recommended for disciplinary action by Police Superintendent William Taylor. The City of Lowell offered deals to the five employees facing the harshest punishment, which allowed them to accept lesser punishment instead of facing hearings. Siopes, who was in charge the night Brame died, was the only one to reject the deal offered to him, which included a demotion to patrolman and a 180-day unpaid suspension.
I was not able to make it to the fourth day of the hearing, but The Lowell Sun was there to report on it. According to the Sun, Police Superintendent William Taylor, who testified during the first three days of the hearing, was temporarily excused so he could attend to his normal public safety duties during an annual three-day Lowell Folk Festival that draws a huge number of visitors to the city. Accoridng to the Sun:
When the hearing ended for the day on Thursday, attorney Peter Perroni, representing Siopes, demanded to see original policy and procedure documents. He had copies of the documents: One that indicated it has been sent to officers and the other had the words "never issued" covered up by correction fluid.
Siopes is accused of not following departmental policies and procedures in the handling of Brame. Perroni argues that policies and procedures were not disseminated to officers, while the city says it has email confirmation that Siopes at least opened the email that contained the documents.
City Solicitor Christine O'Connor said on Friday that when Taylor testifies again he can be asked about how these documents are maintained and "who whited anything out."
Perroni argued that an independent study of the city's operations, known as "Lowell's Matrix Study," found that the department's policies and procedures "have neither been reviewed nor updated in a number of years," and that the failure to update policies "presents a significant risk-management issue."
Since then staff was assigned to update policies and procedures, but those updates were not given to officers, Perroni said.
When the hearing is over, Eric Slagle, the director of Development Services who is serving as hearing officer, will make a recommendation to City Manager Kevin Murphy about what disciplinary action should be taken against Siopes. The decision will ultimately rest with Murphy.