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Kramer calls for Independent Investigation of Police Chief

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It was expected tonight that the Select Board would perform a mid-year performance review for Hopkinton Chief of Police Joseph Bennett. What was not expected were the subsequent fireworks that erupted between board members, and the damning portrait of Bennett’s leadership offered by Select Board Chair Muriel Kramer.

But prior to the review, as with the past several Select Board meetings, residents took the opportunity to speak at public forum, with some using their time to criticize Bennett and the Board for allowing him to remain in command.  

“I just can’t grasp how Joseph Bennett continues to actively serve as Police Chief while the DA investigates why he publicly released the survivor’s – and don’t forget, her children’s’ – personal identifying information. This is a direct violation of Massachusetts General Law, done at the Chief’s direction,” said resident Timothy Boivin.

Joseph Road resident Karen Crum spoke next. “I am asking for the suspension of the police chief immediately, pending the outcome of an exhaustive criminal investigation into several crimes allegedly committed by the chief of police and others in town management,” she said. 

After quickly confirming two new town hires, Chair Muriel Kramer advanced the agenda to the review of the Chief. 

Hopkinton Chief of Police Joseph Bennett

Bennett approached the Board and offered a brief self-evaluation of his performance.

“My three goals are community outreach and engagement, recruitment of police officers, and promotion and professional development,” said Bennett.  

A long pause ensued, prompting Kramer to ask “Did you want to say any more about your performance towards the goals?”

Speaking to his first goal, Bennett cited the creation of a social media team, led by Sgt. Bill Burchard. “They’re very active and have met as recently as a few weeks ago. They are working with our public relations firm to learn about better ways to communicate with the public.”

Bennett also noted that the town’s public relations firm, JGPR, has had “training in publication of social media content and also in public records and management of those platforms.” This was an odd inclusion considering it was JGPR that issued the press release outing Jay Porter’s alleged victim in January.

Upon conclusion of Bennett’s remarks, Chair Kramer took over.

“I take zero pleasure in this, but I have had concerns that I have articulated as far back as November of 2022,” said Kramer. “I have not brought these forward in a public forum because I was hoping not to have to do that,” she continued.

“These concerns are about your ability to execute as a leader and as the chief,” she said.

Kramer proceeded to spend a full 15 minutes detailing Bennett’s multiple failures of leadership and broken promises. She identified issues such as a “nonexistent succession plan, (an) internal promotion strategy (that) is weak, and (that) oversight and insight for management purposes is extremely challenging for us on the Select Board.”

Supercut: Kramer delivers a scathing indictment of Bennett’s leadership of the HPD, and Lafreniere reacts

Kramer pointed to a misalignment between Bennett’s stated goals and his actual performance, including the requirement to implement body-worn cameras and drug testing for officers. Additionally, she noted that the deadline for the police department to become accredited was March 2024, but has since been pushed back to December 2024. In Massachusetts, when a police department is accredited, it means that the department has met specific standards of excellence in areas such as policy and procedures, administration, operations, and support services. Accreditation is important because it demonstrates a police department’s commitment to professionalism, accountability, and transparency.

Minutes later Kramer disclosed that in August 2023 she, the town manager, and town’s attorney were made aware that the chief had received a letter expressing “concern or no confidence” signed by all of his sergeants in the April 2023 time frame. “You were asked to produce the letter at that time but we have not seen it.”

Kramer neared the end of her remarks with a mention of the “improper disclosure of protected information (that) have led to an investigation by the DA of the incident and of you.”

Putting Bennett on the spot, she asked: “According to the POST certification standards you told us, an officer under investigation must be reported to POST within 48 hours. Has that been done?”

The Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission is responsible for overseeing the certification and potential decertification of police officers in the state. The commission requires police officers to pass a test and undergo an interview as part of the certification process. If an officer’s POST status is suspended it generally prevents them from working as a police officer until their status is reinstated. For comparative context, Sgt. Tim Brennan’s POST status was suspended the moment he was placed on administrative leave in May 2023.

Bennett asked Kramer to clarify her question, and she repeated herself. 

“I had this conversation with your legal counsel, and that would be the duty of the District Attorney’s office,” replied Bennett.

Whether that is true is a matter of debate. 555 CMR 1.01 (1) of the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission defines “the head of an agency” as the responsible reporting party. Bennett is the “head of the agency” in Hopkinton, so in a case where he is the subject of an investigation, the responsibility for reporting would escalate to the next in command; the Town Manager or potentially the Select Board as the town’s Executive.

“At a minimum we ought to consider paid administrative leave while the investigation plays out with the DA,” concluded Kramer.

Clearly upset, Board member Mary Jo Lafreniere jumped in, directing her comments toward Kramer. “I would really have liked to have known this as we went along. It just seems like you have taken the reins and just gone off all on your own on this subject. I know nothing, and therefore I do not agree with you,” she said.

“I will just say for the record, I spent hours watching and re-watching the tapes. You are aware, you were at those meetings,” Kramer retorted.

“I know nothing,” said Mary Jo Lafreniere to Kramer.

Contrary to Lafreniere’s desire, had Kramer discussed any part of her objections with board members in advance it would have constituted a violation of Massachusetts open meeting laws. By statute, performance reviews such as the chief’s are required to be done in an open meeting.

Board member Shahidul Mannan spoke at length, indicating he felt it was unfair to ask the chief to respond when he was hearing Kramer’s feedback for the first time. He suggested the chief be allowed time to prepare a response for a future meeting. Mannan also agreed that an independent investigation is warranted “to let the facts come out”.  

Board member Amy Ritterbusch offered no meaningful comment, but seeking to align with Mannan, said “I agree. We want to know what happened so it can be prevented from happening again”. As has been widely reported, Ritterbusch herself participated in the January disclosure, sharing Porter’s alleged victim’s personal information across social media channels she manages.

No vote from the board was requested or taken, and Kramer gave the chief until March 12 to prepare a response to her feedback.

“I like how we are having different perspectives and different opinions at times, but how we are working together to move forward and come to a consensus,” said Mannan. “I just find it funny the notion that we always agree. We shed light and disagree but find ways to work together.”

>> GO DEEPER: Read the full transcript of Ms. Kramer’s remarks

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26 COMMENTS

  1. Keep up the pressure Hoptown. This corrupt chief, on his revenge tour on his best friend’s ( the rapists) behalf.

    It’s funny that the board doesn’t even know the rules on the chiefs review. Recall Mary Jo, she has no clue about anything & never reads any documents. Ritterbusch is covering her behind as she broke the law too. Mannan is trying to hold on for dear life and Nusralla is running for the hills. He knows, being a lawyer and all.

    This chief and his goon attorney should be held accountable. Break a simple standard and you get fired. Break the law by outing a victim and her children several times and you get spoken to sternly at a select board hearing.

    Fire them all. Grow up. They ruined a good man’s career. Pension. Health insurance. Etc. gone because this chief has an agenda to protect his friend and deputy chief racist. Who got his pension

    Get rid of these fools.

    Hoptown it’s time to grow up. Hundreds of thousands paid in Brennan’s case, yet you pay Porter till death. And his insurance. Who is covering Tim Brennan’s insurance?

    It is unfathomable that you allow these fools to carry on. Sickening

  2. It’s painful to watch these sessions, just who is the adult in the room? Certainly not anyone on the SB. The lack of leadership skills is very evident.

  3. Muriel showed a lot of courage last night. She was prepared and determined. Good for you Muriel, thank you for listening to the community.

  4. BRAVO Muriel! After watching the meeting it is clear that Muriel is the only person doing the job of selectperson. MaryJo needs to go! Amy, resign now!! I want to ask again…WHO IS RUNNING THIS TOWN? If the Police Chief reports to the Town Manager, how have all of the incomplete tasks assigned to this Chief been incomplete for so long without any follow up or consequences. How did he get away with not giving the Select board the letter of no confidence???? That is insubordination in a nutshell. Bennett has to go NOW

  5. I can’t help but wonder why the SB allowed Chief Bennett to lead negotiations with Brennan and his attorney when Muriel (unclear if entire SB was aware), the town manager and town council were all aware in August 2023 of a letter expressing “concern or no confidence” signed by all of his sergeants in the April 2023 time frame, a letter the chief has failed to produce after being instructed to do so.

    Kramer also stated that she had concerns about Bennett since November 2022, which she said she had articulated before, but not in a public forum. She stated “These concerns are about your ability to execute as a leader and as the chief”. This, coupled with with letter of concern or no confidence mentioned above and the fact that Bennett broke the law and caused personal trauma and potential lawsuits by releasing the alleged victim’s identity, really makes me wonder why Bennett was allowed to be the negotiator.

    He needs to be fired. It sounds like the officers under him don’t respect him/have lost confidence in him, as is the case with the SB chairwoman and many people in town.

  6. Talk about too little too late. Of course, now we need to spend even more money on a private investigation. We should probably tack on a private financial audit as it seems we’ve been paying consultants with no deliverables and hiring accountants with questionable work histories. It’s been almost a year since all the Sergeants signed a letter of no confidence? Only the Town Manager and Muriel know this? Holy smokes, incompetence all around. MaryJo reminds me more of our President each time she speaks and is just as unfit for duty. Amy sheepishly mumbles and looks across the table for reassurance like a skittish dog that knows she did wrong. Good thing the kids got a half day pizza party, otherwise we might think the Chief had thrown in the towel on his career and was just collecting a check.

  7. If all of the Hopkinton police dept wanted their police chief gone in April 2023, why did the town manager, and any member of the select board sit on the topic for a year before bringing it up? He could had been gone last year and there could had been a complete different recommendation from a new non biased police chief not personally involved w Porter that could had made the recommendation on how to handle Tim’s case differently.

  8. I want all of you to remember the dignity Sgt Brennan displayed throughout this entire fiasco.

    This Chief is a liar. He has fooled you all, well most of you. He ruined a man’s career because he lacks the emotional stability and clarity of judgement to make proper decisions regarding a rule infraction. Then he gave his best friend and rapist his pension. These elected officials keep him in charge of your safety and that of your families. How? Why? I do not know. He has no moral compass.

    This Board needs to go
    This Chief needs to go

    Mary Jo has something wrong and is unfit for this line of work. She does zero homework yet supports this unprofessional and revenge seeking “chief”. She is doing Hopkinton no good. I rewatched the video, her response to Muriel was on par with the Brennan hearing, “has anybody told her mother?”. Clearly not doing her job at all, not reading or remembering a thing.

    It is shocking that these people are making executive decisions for Hopkinton.

    Fire Bennett
    Reinstate Brennan

    Save yourselves from this fiasco, this Joke isn’t funny anymore.

    This is maddening. How many more lives must be ruined due to the man’s incompetence??

    Wake up.

    #thankyoutim

  9. I really don’t know exactly how to feel about this.

    There needed to be a thorough investigation of what went wrong with the release of information regarding the Brennan report.

    If what Kramer states is true, there needs to be a bigger investigation than just the information leak. I fully support that.

    I do question a few of Kramer’s actions, especially if she blinded-sided the rest of the select board with this. I do understand the limits of communication about some things regarding open meeting laws, we _all_ know that there are discussions that happen outside official channels. You know that there are private meetings between individuals that are ‘off the record’.

    Lafreniere’s response is particularly noteworthy. We know she doesn’t play her cards to her chest. She’s one of the most transparent members of the Select Board. Her complete surprise with this suggests to me that the Select Board hasn’t been talking about issues. Sure, you could chock it up to ‘Someone hasn’t read the email’, but the entire board?

    I’m actually wondering if the ‘uniform’ response from the Select Board has more to do with the lack of information sharing leading to groupthink rather than the nefarious actions some have ascribed.

    • A.S. You do realize that all 5 members of this select board had all of this information. No one was blind sided. Mary Jo doesn’t read anything. Kramer corrected Mary Jo on the record with the record.

      I hope you are as consistent with your opinions in this case as you were when you suggested finding Brennan a new job.

      If not I’ll be your sounding board. I’ll challenge you to hold everyone as accountable as you did Brennan.

      Bennet outed a victim and her family. What do you think should happen to him? He broke the law, not a simple rule.

      Enlighten me please.

      • Billy Brennan –

        If Bennet intentionally released the information, he should be fully prosecuted. This is a gross violation of the law and is completely unacceptable.
        If Bennet made the decision to release the information without doing due diligence, he should be removed. It is unacceptable for him to fail in this manner.
        If _HOPKINTON_ released the information without doing due diligence, we should investigate and make sure that we find and solve the process error. If there needs to be disciplinary action taken, there should be.

        This needs to be investigated to determine the root causes. We do not have enough information to directly place blame on an individual or process. I am fully supportive of an independent investigation and then making decisions with the information gathered.

        We need to orient before we decide how to act. We haven’t even begun to observe the situation. This is the same position I had with Tim Brennan and will always have regarding making crucial decisions.

        • You condemned one yet ask for understanding and orientation with another. The Chief was responsible for the release of information. He is bending the rules and playing a game because he wants to retain his power. He is corrupting the process by not releasing documents. The board should be acting, they aren’t.

          This Chief is in charge of your towns safety. This isn’t a time to wait, it’s a time to act so he doesn’t endanger any more families. He told everyone where his best friends tape victim and her children live. Then fired her protector.

          Bennett needs to be relieved so your town can be protected from him, the person who has broken several laws.

          How you even employ once once of reason in arguing this is unbelievable.

          #thankyoutim

          #firebennett

    • Open meeting laws would be violated if the SB conferred in private about these issues, she is restricted to distributing meeting agendas, scheduling, or reports. Deliberation of any topic is forbidden outside of a meeting.

      • Just to be clear, MA open meeting law restricts discussions between or among a quorum of members of a board or committee. A discussion between two members of the SB would not violate the open meeting law. A serial discussion among members encompassing a quorum, on the other hand, would violate the law.

    • A.S.,

      Just so we are clear, your response is they should have used “off record” conversations to discuss Chief Bennett which directly violates the open meeting law of the Selectboard. That would have been an acceptable solution for you?

      But you wanted to hold Officer Brennan’s feet to the fire for violating a policy that wasn’t even in place when he supposedly violated it.

      No one was blindsided last night. Anyone half paying attention knew the Chief broke the law with releasing the victim’s private information. And it’s also NO secret that our town has been hemorrhaging police officers for the last several years. It’s also NO secret that Bennett was best friends with Porter, and all of this looks like retaliation on Brennan. These are real things that any half paying attention citizen would know about. The Select Board members absolutely knew about these things. Muriel was just the only with the guts to finally call him out on it.

      • See Thomas Garabedian’s comment above.

        There are private conversations about issues all the time. If you assume the only time the individuals on the Select Board talk are during meetings, I think you would be sadly mistaken.

        There is information that has been public. I have seen the same things you have seen. However, the letter about no-confidence is a new piece of information. The extreme lack of transparency between the Select Board and Hopkinton Police Leadership is a new piece of information. There have been pieces which have hinted at this, but I do not think this was brought to the individuals within the Select Board before this meeting.

        In my view, a leader like Muriel Kramer would have individually approached the members of the board to highlight some of these major issues BEFORE publicly dropping this. This shouldn’t have been a ‘Gotcha’ for the rest of the board, but it is being viewed that way. The other members did not expect that Kramer was going to take this stance and demand answers immediately. It’s one thing to do that to the individual with the performance review, especially if they’ve been dodging the questions. To do that to the other members of the committee makes the entire organization look unprofessional.

        I don’t think that the Select Board, sans Kramer, is completely incompetent. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that we’ve elected four complete idiots and one completely good person. Perhaps there’s shades all around.

        • A.S., I understand your thought process, but what you describe is actually a serial conversation and would be a violation of the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law. It’s true that one member can have a conversation with one other member without violating Open Meeting Law, but if either of those two has a conversation with a third member, it would be considered a serial conversation and would be a violation. Or even if the information gets to a third member inadvertently it would be a serial conversation. (So, for example, if member A had a conversation with member B and member B told their spouse and the content of their conversation made its way to member C, it would be a serial conversation too, even though it would theoretically have been unintentional). I don’t mean this as judgment either way on how this was handled, but just want to clarify the open meeting law part.

          It’s theoretically possible that there could have been a conversation held in executive session, but there are rules about discussing personnel in executive session and the topic would have had to have been publicly posted on an agenda.

          • Thank you for that correction – Massachusetts State Law seems to differ from some other open meetings laws and I stand corrected on this process. Given that new knowledge, I still think that it was bad form, but I understand the reasons that Kramer took the actions based on the timeline and information shared.

            Thank you for keeping me informed.

  10. I agree w that Chief Bennet at best needs to be replaced. This whole situation has been a debacle to say the least.

    That being said some of the wording in this article concerns me.

    I’ve noticed recently that the opinion and feelings of the reporter at times and in some articles is evident when it should only be the facts. This was not an op Ed correct? If not, reporters should not be adding their own opinions and feelings or alluding to them in articles. No one should be making comments that speak to ones state of mind unless it is their own. For example: No one knows for sure that Bennet was “stalling” when asked about his performance. That’s an opinion. And Ritterbush “not offering any meaningful comments” again, an opinion. Meaningful to whom? What’s meaningful to one person may not be to another.

    I realize it may feel like what’s the big deal or semantic gymnastics but words matter and they matter particularly when reporting facts and information to the public.

    • Thanks for your feedback.

      Part of what you get with HopNews (vs. the Independent) is that we include a bit of “what it means to you”. For example, we explained what POST is and we added commentary about JGPR’s involvement in the victim’s outing. We hope our readers find it helpful context, even though it breaks the traditional rules of journalism. It’s a trade-off.

      To your point about “stalling”, this is not a comment on the chief’s state of mind, it is a comment on his behavior. If you watch the film back the chief was objectively stalling for time, as evidenced by the fact that when he asked Kramer to clarify her question, and she repeated exactly the same question, he answered it.

      To Ritterbusch’s “non-meaningful comment”, she added nothing substantive to the discussion. Everything she said was a repeat of either Kramer or Mannan’s earlier comments. She had no questions of her own for the chief, and appears to have not prepared for his performance review. This is all on the film and we encourage you to watch it back.

  11. It was pretty obvious that it was going to be a train wreck when all the Chief had to talk about in regards to his performance were pizza parties, parades, and social media. I still was not expecting the SB to do anything about it but my fears were allayed when Muriel had clearly and thoughtfully prepared her concerns that have grown into a very long list over the past few years. I was stunned at the clear insubordination, defiance, arrogance, and ineptitude that this chief has displayed by his behavior. Missing deadlines, withholding documents, severe attrition, having no confidence from his team, releasing the alleged victim’s documents, Unreal. If what Muriel is saying is true, and why wouldn’t it be, this guy is an absolute embarassment. I commend Muriel for taking a difficult but very necessary stand and finally taking the opportunity to hold him accountable because the rest of the SB are clearly not capable of it. Mary Jo actually doesn’t appear capable of fulfilling her role at all anymore. She is constantly unprepared and thinks it’s everyone else’s job to fill her in and keep her informed. I don’t understand why she thinks it’s ok to not perform her due diligence with her responsibilities. Shahidul is wrong, it’s absolutely fair to expect the Chief to respond to the feedback. Just because it isn’t unicorns and rainbows, it’s relevant feedback and this was his performance review. This is what happens during performance reviews. I don’t know why Shahidul and Mary Jo are trying to protect the Chief other than to cover their own hides. It’s unreal but I’m relieved that the Chief may finally be held accountable for his actions.

  12. Everyone needs to take a step back. Unless there are new laws that I am unaware of Jay Porter has not had his day in court yet and until the case has been heard and tried he is innocent. All the members of the board had a copy of the latest edition of the transcript and I heard several times during the public hearing they had not had a chance to read it. It is my understanding it was distributed through the selectmen’s office. It is now hindsight but most likely everyone assumed the accusers name had been redacted. Whose responsibility was it to make sure this was done. All of you who have been calling for people to be fired, public, unpaid volunteers to be recalled, public shaming of some board members for reading prepared statements when Tim Brennan did the exact same thing should be ashamed to show your face. This is NOT what Hopkinton is about. I am not saying Jay Porter is innocent nor am I saying he’s guilty. I just asking people to wait for the outcome. IF he is innocent there has been a lot of damage done to him and his family. And Muriel Kramer should be the first to go.

    • From my perspective, the outcome of Porter’s case has no bearing on any of this. Also, Kramer repeatedly stated that she wanted the SB to conduct an investigation to not only hold the Chief accountable but also in an effort to hold themselves accountable. Even if you remove the last part of Kramer’s list of concerns where she states the Chief publicly shared the PII of the victim, there is a huge list of missteps on his part that aren’t even related to the Porter case. RE the Loudermill hearing: I think you heard repeatedly that Mary Jo didn’t have a chance to review the material (and her comments made it evident that she hadn’t) which is ridiculous because the hearing was pushed out due to weather, giving her an additional 4 days to do so (she also commented about being inconvenienced by having to show up on a Friday). If she did read it, she clearly didn’t understand it or care to clarify any of it before showing up that night. These are elected officials with a ton of authority and their decisions make a big impact on our town and residents. They are way more than public unpaid volunteers- they sought out and chose to run for these positions which can benefit them politically. They need to work a little harder in my opinion.

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