, Newburyport, MA

August 16, 2013

Haverhill officers should accept punishment

Newburyport Daily News

---- — Two Haverhill police officers whom the city has disciplined for giving preferential treatment to a former state trooper should take their punishment and be thankful that it was so light.

Instead, Lt. William Leeman and patrolman Christopher Pagliuca, who have had two requests to the Civil Service Commission to reverse their suspensions rejected, now plan to appeal to state Superior Court.

The punishment was well deserved.

Leeman and Pagliuca were suspended for 10 and five days, respectively, for violating police rules and ethical standards, as well as unsatisfactory performance. The suspensions stem from an incident March 30, 2012, in which Charles Noyes, a retired state police colonel, crashed his SUV in West Newbury then continued driving across the town line into Haverhill, where he stopped in the middle of a travel lane.

The crash snapped a utility pole on Route 113 in West Newbury, knocking out power for 11 hours.

Noyes drove his Cadillac Escalade into Haverhill with its air bags deployed. Several police officers and medics at the scene testified that they believed Noyes to be intoxicated, but Noyes was not charged with drunk driving and he was not arrested.

Both West Newbury and Haverhill police officers were at the scene, with a West Newbury officer arriving first. West Newbury police charged Noyes with leaving the scene of an accident that caused property damage.

Noyes later admitted to sufficient facts and was sentenced in Newburyport District Court to six months of unsupervised probation.

But the failure to charge Noyes with drunken driving and to arrest him at the scene is the source of the controversy.

An internal Haverhill police investigation found that Noyes was given special treatment by both West Newbury and Haverhill police officers due to his previous state police position, and that officers acted to cover up their actions in investigating the incident.

But an outside investigation authorized by West Newbury concluded that their officers broke no departmental rules or regulations.

Haverhill officials issued suspensions to Leeman and Pagliuca and also a 10-day suspension to officer Harry Miller, who was also at the scene. Miller, who was demoted from sergeant to patrolman, previously agreed not to fight his suspension.

Leeman and Pagliuca argued to the Civil Service Commission that it was the responsibility of the West Newbury officer, Sgt. Daniel Cena, who was first at the scene, to bring drunken driving charges against Noyes.

But Haverhill Chief Alan DeNaro rejected that argument.

“If we have a crime committed in the city of Haverhill and we have probable cause, regardless of the action or inaction of another officer from (another department) that doesn’t handle the calls we handle ... my officers with their vast knowledge and experience should have made the arrest,” the chief testified at a local discipline hearing for the officers.

DeNaro has it right. It is up to Haverhill police officers to take the lead in handling a crime that has occurred in their city, not to take their cues from what officers in another jurisdiction choose to do.

Leeman and Pagliuca failed to perform their duty. They have twice had their arguments rejected by the Civil Service Commission.

Now, they plan to drag their case into Superior Court. Leeman and Pagliuca would better serve themselves and their community by accepting their punishment.