Chicopee Associate Solicitor, Thomas Rooke, uses a personal email account to dodge records requests. He then avoided complying with an order from Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin's office by applying for an extension even though those don't exist in the law (yet).Read More
Maylene Maldonado was choked by Chicopee police Sergeant Daniel Major on camera in front of a room full of Chicopee police officers who did nothing to stop the attack on February 17, 2013. Major faced charges for the choking but his case was continued without finding and eventually dismissed. Moldanado is currently suing the police department over the attack. Maldonado’s arrest was avoidable and the result of questionable policing in the first place.
Maldonado was arrested for assault and battery on an officer and resisting arrest. According to the police reports, Maldonado slapped and scratched Chicopee Police Officer Matt Birks. Photos of small scratches on Birk’s face support the allegation.
But the interaction between Birk and Maldonado should have never happened.
The arrest report details the events leading to Maldonado’s arrest. The Chicopee police were called out to a motel responding to a report of an incoherent man carrying a large knife at an Econo-Lodge. When police pulled up to the motel, they saw Maldonado running to a nearby gas station and decided to chase her down to “check” on her. Sergeant Godere then brought her back to the motel. Maldonado had taken PCP and had been drinking before this police encounter.
This was already a questionable choice. The police split up to chase a woman when they were sent to deal with reports of a man with a knife, then took the woman back to the motel where there was a reportedly dangerous situation.
Another officer brought Anthony Jimenez, Moldanado's companion, out to the hotel lobby, where they all spoke. Officers took Maldonado and her companion's driver's licenses. The arrest report gives no reason for why this was done. Maldonado’s detention ended with police releasing her, underscoring the fact that there was no reason for her to be detained in the first place. Maldonado went back to her motel room, but the police hadn’t given back her license.
Officer Birk handed Maldonado’s license to her companion, but since she wasn’t present she didn’t know this. Maldonado returned to the motel lobby and demanded Officer Birk return her license. She became agitated and tried to grab a license, which belonged to someone else, out to Birk’s hands. Birk decided to pull the license away from Maldonado and she attacked him triggering her violent arrest and eventual choking during booking.
If this report is accurate, Maldonado certainly should not have attacked Birk, but the entire encounter was unnecessary. Almost every decision made by officers according to their police report was questionable and created the situation Maldonado was arrested for. Maldonado shouldn’t have been chased down, dragged back into a potentially dangerous situation, detained and had her driver’s license taken for no reason, not should her license have been handed off to someone else.
The report never even addressed the reportedly incoherent, knife-wielding man that the police were called out to deal with.
Earlier in the week, we shared a video of now former Chicopee police sergeant Daniel Major angrily choking a woman while yelling at her to "shut up." The victim, Maylene Maldonado, was on PCP at the time and yelling but was handcuffed and not acting violently toward the police. Two readers left us comments, both saying that the video shows the failure of the police officers in the video to deescalate the situation.
Here is a comment Adam Friedman left on our Facebook page:
If you watch the video, the cops were very cool and straightforward with her most of the time. She was on PCP, which makes her potentially dangerous to begin with. She started freaking out about her lip [piercing], yelling about how she wanted them to take it out for her. The cops did not want to take her piercing out of her lip. They told her no in a calm way, and she got louder and louder -- essentially she threw a tantrum. Then the senior cop just got fed up with it and wanted to force her to shut up, so he briefly started to choke her. Obviously, he should be punished in some way.
The real solution here is that they need quality training to deal with the particular traits and maladies associated with drug addiction, psychosis, poverty, trauma, depression, etc. In this case they also could have used a soft touch, and actually just taken it out for her which would have quieted her down. I found this incredibly sad, like she wanted her mommy to take it out for her because "she can't stand the pain". And the cops just don't have the training or holistic sensibility or compassion practice to go above and beyond protocol.
And here is a comment left by “PostSurgeOperative” on our YouTube channel:
[S]he admits having used PCP earlier in the day. Based on that alone, they should realise [sic] that she will have difficulty understanding what's being said to her and that her behavior could be wildly erratic. They should have brought her to a mental health facility for treatment and observation.
Also, stating that "bad things will happen" if she fails to comply is a very menacing thing to say to someone who's already distraught and agitated, and it probably doesn't help to de-escalate situations like this.
In the internal affairs report regarding the choking of Maylene Maldonado on February 17, 2013, the Chicopee Police Department found that their officers acted “admirably.” But now one of the officers in question is facing assault and battery charges after a judge found probable cause to issue a criminal complaint. Maldonado has also filed a civil rights lawsuit.
The disparate conclusions reached by the judge and the department highlight how inappropriate it is to have matters of police violence and misconduct handled by the department in which they work.Read More
On January 5, I sent a records request to the Chicopee Police Department’s Records Officer Louis Vezina. Vezina acknowledged his receipt of the request by email on January 8. The 10-day window for the Chicopee police to respond was up on the 18. Officer Vezina said in his January 8 email that he sent my request off to the Facebook administrator Officer Mike Wilk. I never heard from Wilk and was never given his contact information, despite asking for it.
The City of Chicopee’s Associate Solicitor Christine Pikula sent me another acknowledgment on January 12, letting me know that they had my request and would coordinate with the police department to produce a response as soon as they could.
After the 10 days lapsed without a response, I reached out to Vezina, asking him if the overdue request had been addressed. Despite his job as Records Officer, Vezina claimed he was not involved and that I had to speak with Wilk. I pointed out that he had not provided any contact information for Wilk, to which Vezina did not respond.
I reached out to the official Facebook account for the Chicopee police and was directed to the City Solicitor, so I requested an update on the status of my overdue request from Associate City Solicitor Pikula. Pikula returned a uniquely ridiculous letter claiming that her acknowledgment was in fact a response meaning my records request was not overdue and that their official response is that they will respond.
“Pursuant to M.G.L. c. 66 s.10, the City did provide a response to you within ten (10) days of your request, and your request is not overdue. As indicated in my letter of January 12, 2015, we are reviewing your request with the appropriate departments and will get a response to you as soon as we can,” she wrote.
Pikula cites the public records law in her letter but has failed to comply with it. The claim that her earlier acknowledgment letter constitutes a records request response is false. According to the guide on the Massachusetts Public Record Law put out by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, “The records custodian must respond to requests as soon as practicable, without unreasonable delay and within ten calendar days. The response must be either an offer to provide the requested materials or a written denial” (emphasis added).
The January 12 email attachment from Pikula neither offered to provide me with the requested records nor denied my request and as such it does not constitute a response.
28 days after the request was acknowledged, Pikula finally responded. I have appealed to the Supervisor of Records, asking that she and the Chicopee police be retrained on compliance with the records law since they obviously don't understand it.
While people all over the world are declaring "je suis Charlie" in solidarity with the French magazine that was attacked by terrorists, the Chicopee Police Department has moved forward with its own attack against another Charlie's freedom of expression.
Charles "Charlie" Dirosa, the man who was accused by the Chicopee police of making a threat after he wrote "Put Wings On Pigs" on Facebook, has agreed to perform community service if the complaint against him is dismissed. Dirosa's Facebook post was likely a reference to a similar Instagram post by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the man who went on a shooting spree last month that included his girlfriend and two New York City police officers before committing suicide.
According to The Republican:
A 27-year-old city man, who allegedly posted "Put Wings on pigs" on his Facebook page following last month's slayings of two New York City police officers, has agreed to perform community service.
That was the outcome of Charles DiRosa's show-cause hearing Monday in District Court, Michael Wilk, public information officer for the police department, said.
"Mr. DiRosa came to an agreement with the clerk-magistrate to do community service hours to be completed before March 16," Wilk said.
Once the community service is done, the complaint will be dismissed, Wilk said.
While Dirosa's post angered many people, it's almost certain that he would not have been convicted of a crime if he had chosen to fight the charge.
Russell Matson, a criminal defense attorney who sometimes contributes to The Bay State Examiner, explained that Dirosa’s Facebook post was “so vague” that it does not qualify as a threat. In order to constitute a genuine threat, Matson said, a statement must be directed toward a specific person, must indicate intent to carry out the threat, and the victim must have a reasonable belief that the person has the ability to carry out the threat. Matson said that Dirosa's post was protected by the First Amendment.
Even though he didn't do anything illegal, it's understandable that Dirosa would be eager to put this incident behind him by agreeing to these terms. After all, the Chicopee police's allegation against Dirosa thrust him into the national spotlight and possibly even made him a target for violent retaliation by police.
Over in East Windsor, Connecticut, former police officer Doug Humphrey called on his "law enforcement friends" to "kill [Charles Dirosa] dead" in a Facebook post. The East Windsor Police Department issued a press release saying they were investigating their former employee's comment after we brought it to their attention, but have been mum about the investigation ever since.
The chief of the scandal-plagued physchiatric prison Bridgewater State Hospital has resigned at Governor Deval Patrick's request. The Massachusetts House of Represenatives has passed a law making it illegal for first responders to take and distribute photos of crime victims in light of a scandal where Chicopee police shared photos of a homicide victim's body.
Why weren't any lawmakers charged in the Probation Department corruption case?
DigBoston editor's open letter to journalists about marijuana prohibition.
Debunking myths about illegal immigration.
Sentor considers releasing the Senate's CIA torture report.