HomeOpinionLetter to SB: Suspend Chief Bennett Now

Letter to SB: Suspend Chief Bennett Now

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Select Board:

Tonight (February 20th), I spoke at the Town of Hopkinton Select Board meeting. I am writing to the Select Board to expand upon my views. Some of this was covered in my time during the public forum, but much of it was not given my attempt to keep my comments respectfully to the two-minute limit afforded speakers.

At the January 30th Select Board meeting, the Select Board Chair, Muriel Kramer, read an apology for the disclosure of the personal identifying information (PII) of the survivor who is accusing retired Deputy Chief John Porter of child rape, for which he has been indicted on three counts.

On behalf of the Select Board and Town officials, including the police chief, Ms. Kramer said:

“We must be guided both by the necessary humility to question and reflect on our own actions, and by an unflagging commitment to fix what went wrong. You can be assured that we are doing just that.”

If so, why does Joseph Bennett still actively serve as the police chief of our Town?

Porter was suspended when the town learned of the investigation into child rape allegations against him from the Middlesex County District Attorney.

Sgt. Timothy Brennan was also suspended when his heroic role in selflessly supporting the survivor over years came to light – and then he was appallingly fired by the Select Board based on Chief Bennett’s recommendation.

Chief Bennett, on January 19thBEFORE Sgt. Brennan’s supposedly fair Loudermill hearing was held, directed that a press release including links to documents with unredacted PII of the survivor and her children in the Porter case be released to the public. This was a crime, done in direct violation of Massachusetts General Law. The chief’s irresponsible, if not malicious behavior in putting that protected information out has caused irreparable harm to the survivor and her family, for which the Town is probably going to be sued. And it also puts the town at risk of a fine for violating the rape victim protections in Massachusetts General Law, as well as a possible prison sentence for the person — the Chief — responsible for releasing the information.

The apology also stated:

“Words alone are never enough, but we still offer them as we seek to do what is right and to make amends.”

And yet on February 9th, incredulously, the Select Board voted 4-1 to fire Sgt. Brennan — with only Ms. Kramer, to her substantial credit, doing the decent thing and dissenting.

The rest of you Select Board members, right then and there, had a chance to start making amends – to do what was decent, to do what was right, to find a middle ground so some form of healing over this entire tragic affair could begin.

Instead, you fired a good man who notably served this town without a blemish on his record for decades – and even more nobly, a hero who never, ever wavered in his support for the survivor throughout this entire ordeal, to the extent that he finally fell on the proverbial sword of his professional law enforcement career as he protected the survivor.

That excessively punitive retribution for policy violations – coming on the heels of the Select Board telling the residents of Hopkinton that it was committed to “do what is right and to make amends” – well, that just rings totally hollow now.

The apology went on to say:

“Doing the work and making sure this never happens again is foremost on our minds, as well as rightly holding ourselves and others accountable as needed in meaningful ways.”

Again, as long as you continue to allow Joseph Bennett to actively serve as police chief, and also as long as Amy Ritterbusch continues to serve on the Select Board, your apology means absolutely nothing.

Ms. Kramer, you have a wealth of experience in social work, so I’m sure you understand the extent of the betrayal trauma that has been inflicted on the survivor by other members of the Select Board and Police Chief with their horrendous actions. She placed her trust in Sgt. Brennan, and now has to be feeling badly that such a good man lost his job just for trying to help her. Inexcusably, your fellow Select Board members simply don’t seem to care and continue to bury their heads in the sand. Every single second that Joseph Bennett is allowed to continue to actively serve as the Police Chief of Hopkinton, the Select Board is complicit in re-traumatizing the survivor.

Enough is enough. To restore trust, Ms. Ritterbusch must resign immediately for her careless sharing of the survivor’s PII to more than 5,000 followers of her social media accounts (and who knows how many more people who follow those 5,000 accounts).

The Select Board must also:

  • Immediately suspend Chief Bennett pending the outcome of the DA’s investigation into the release of the survivor’s PII.
  • Put on hold any recommendations for filling additional open leadership positions, including lieutenant and deputy chief. The chief’s judgement on personnel and policies must be called into question, given that he himself violated Massachusetts General Law in releasing the PII of the survivor, and supported promoting the Town’s last deputy chief, who is now charged with three counts of child rape. How much is this police chief going to cost the taxpayers of this town in civil suits?
  • Not accept or act upon any other recommendations from this Chief who has demonstrated such a total lack of leadership throughout this entire tragic affair.

I strongly and emphatically urge the Select Board once again to request assistance from the Massachusetts National Guard’s military police unit to take over the leadership of the Town’s Police Department – both to restore trust, and also to protect any evidence that may be needed in the DA’s investigation into the release of the survivor’s PII.

As I cited at the Select Board meeting three weeks ago, Part 1, Title V, Chapter 33, Section 41 of Massachusetts General Laws, specifically Paragraph A, authorizes aid by the National Guard to be given to the civil authority, in this case the Select Board, when necessary to preserve order and afford protection to persons and property.

The Select Board must request this help now. The Select Board has proven over and over and over again that you are way out of your depth, and yet you continue to let the Chief lead you around by your noses –a Chief who, at the very least, should be under suspension, if not outright fired and charged with a crime.

Until you start proactively addressing the massive failures that continue to cause traumatic harm to the survivor every single day, the statement that the apology concluded with…

“We offer this apology with deep sincerity.”

…well, your continued actions – or lack thereof in support of the survivor – prove that just isn’t true. 

Live up to your words.

Timothy Boivin, Hopkinton

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8 COMMENTS

  1. All eyes have been on the BOS and Chief Bennett. Admittedly, I don’t know whether he released the PII deliberately with malice or he’s just plain old stupid. Either way release of the PII is reprehensible, libelous and actionable. Nonetheless, we cannot ignore town counsel’s role in the release of the PII. They are supposed to review documents and redact PII and any other privileged and confidential information before
    public release. It is nothing short of malpractice and ineffective counsel for this document to have been released unredacted.

  2. “Excellent Article”! & ‘Thinking’
    Hopefully the BOS & Town Counsel will let ‘Property Owners’ in Hopkinton know if they may have to put
    a ‘Comprehensive Disclaimer’ in their P&S, Real-Estate Sales Paperwork/Advertisements, if selling ANY property in Town?

    Do to all the suggestive expressed Financial Liability, Town’s Liability Insurance Limits, facing the Town and suggestively the Tax Payers? Note the ‘excellent’ article on Town Insurance, a “Perfect Storm” for Tax Payers?

    I will be getting an opinion from my own Attorney to be on the safe side?

  3. As I understand it, Chief Bennett, prior to the formal firing of Tim Brennan by the BOS, promoted two officers to sergeant which would block Tim Brennan from assuming his position in the department as Sergeant as there can only be so many sergeants in the department at one time. This was done allegedly before Chief Bennett knew what the outcome of the BOS vote would be in either firing or reinstating Tim Brennan. This is either another case of Bennett’s poor judgement in making decisions for the department or him knowing the fix was in in knowing what the BOS final decision would be. If I am wrong on this I stand corrected.

    • Mike,

      You are incorrect. Chief Bennett proposed two new sergeant positions several months ago outside the current patrol sergeant position that Sgt. Brennan held. I believe the Select Board agreed to that plan which ADDED two new sergeant positions. Sgt. Brennan’s position still remains and will need to be filled.

  4. Very often a picture really is worth a thousand words, and some pictures are worth many more.
    This issue regarding the release of PII reminds me of a famous “Feathers of Gossip” scene from the 2008 movie “Doubt”.

  5. Timothy Boivin, great piece. I like how clear you are about this chief. I think Bennett is on a revenge tour for his friend the rapist. And this unscrupulous select board attempts to cover their behinds. The chief is a scumbag, the board covered for him. Simple. Get rid of them all.

    And that guy A.S. He’s a turd.

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