Police organization suspends officer, retracts columns
UPDATED, Oct. 31: A veteran Arlington police lieutenant who was soon to become the executive director of the Massachusetts Police Association (MPA) has written three opinion columns complaining about the direction criminal-justice reform and progressive policing practices.
Rick Pedrini wrote in the 2018 edition of The Sentinel, the official publication of the MPA: "I am sick and tired of the social justice warriors telling us how to do our jobs. It's time we forget about 'restraint,' 'measured responses,' 'procedural justice,' 'de-escalation', 'stigma-reduction' and other feel-good BS that is getting our officers killed. Let's stop lipsynching, please! Let's meet violence with violence and get the job done."
The views run counter to the department Chief Fred Ryan has run since 1999. Both Ryan and Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine countered Tuesday, Oct. 30, with statements.
The news release issued by John Guilfoil said Pedrini has been relieved of duty and placed on paid administrative leave while the Town of Arlington and Arlington Police Department investigate this matter.
Later on Oct. 30, the MPA said in a statement it has suspended Lt. Pedrini from his duties with the organization and is retracting his columns. Full statement below.
Chapdelaine said in the release: "I am deeply disturbed by the apparent disregard for human life and for the duty of a police officer shown by Richard Pedrini in the Massachusetts Police Association newsletter. These comments do not represent the mission and values of the Arlington Police Department or the Town of Arlington. The sentiment raised by these comments is disturbing. The Town is taking these comments very seriously, and we will thoroughly investigate this matter."
Ryan said: "The columns written by Mr. Pedrini in the Sentinel newsletter directly contradict the values, morals and mission statement of the Arlington Police Department. Such remarks risk eroding the public trust that municipal police departments in Massachusetts have worked so hard to build in recent years. I disavow the remarks in the strongest possible terms, and this matter will be dealt with swiftly and certainly."
Pedrini, who has been employed by the Arlington Police Department since 1996.
Rights commission statement
David Swanson posted va statement from the town's Human Rights Commission on Tuesday evening:
"The AHRC is appalled by the recent writings of Arlington Police Lieutenant Rick Pedrini in the non-profit Massachusetts Police Association’s newsletter, The Sentinel. His derogatory language about many groups of people who are represented in Arlington is frightening, disturbing and endangers the safety of all Arlington residents. These statements are in complete opposition to the mission of the Arlington Police Department (APD) and are detrimental to the incredibly positive and forward-thinking work that we have seen from APD under Chief Fred Ryan's leadership. We have been in contact with Town Manager Chapdelaine and Chief Ryan about this and are pleased and unsurprised that they are taking this very seriously.
"As Lieutenant Pedrini's words about groups of people are not reflective of individuals in those groups, we would like to emphasize that a single officer's hateful language is not representative of the many officers in the APD who work tirelessly to build community trust and provide the safety and security that we all rely on in Arlington. The AHRC looks forward to working with the APD and the Town to address this specific incident and to find more ways to make Arlington a safe and inclusive community for all."
Full MPA statement
A message from the Massachusetts Police Association Executive Board and President Alan Andrews:
"The Massachusetts Police Association is committed to earnestly advocating for members of the law enforcement community and seeks to unify and empower law enforcement officers throughout the Commonwealth. However, some of the columns that were written in the latest issue of The Sentinel newsletter do not uphold the high standards of the MPA and its mission.
"The columns in question, which were meant to be taken in a tongue-in-cheek, satirical fashion, were written for an audience of law enforcement officers and were not meant to be taken literally. They were an evocative response to the raw emotion felt by all police officers around the state due to the recent senseless deaths of Weymouth Police Officer Michael Chesna and Yarmouth Police Officer Sean Gannon. Officers Gannon and Chesna were the true focus of the newsletter and it is extremely unfortunate that some of the columns in its contents took away from that.
"The columns were written by Lt. Richard Pedrini, a 23-year veteran police leader and member of the MPA Executive Board. While these particular columns do not reflect the values of the MPA, Lt. Pedrini is a strong advocate for the law enforcement community and has been throughout his career. In response, the MPA has suspended Lt. Pedrini from his duties with the organization and we are hereby retracting his columns, as they do not meet the criteria that we set for The Sentinel or the MPA as an organization.
"Going forward we commit to doing a better job ensuring that any public-facing messaging upholds our standards and does not detract from our mission. We are not an organization that seeks political division and we apologize for any misunderstanding or dissension that may have been caused."
Sen. Friedman statement on Lt. Pedrini
The office Sen. Cindy Friedman, Democrat of Arlington, released this statement at 2 p.m. Oct. 31:
“I applaud and support the seriousness with which our town leaders are addressing the disturbing remarks made by Lieutenant Pedrini in the Massachusetts Police Association newsletter, The Sentinel. I sincerely believe that the troubling views expressed in the newsletter do not reflect the values of our town, our hard-working and compassionate police department, or our residents. I strongly support the decision by Police Chief Fred Ryan to immediately relieve Lieutenant Pedrini of his police duties. Such inflammatory rhetoric and behavior has absolutely no place in our police force or our community. ”
A report on WBUR earlier Oct. 30 quotes Predrini as characterizing his columns as "satire" and "entertainment." Asked whether he regretted writing the columns, he declined to comment.
A story about Lt. Pedrini's column was first published by MassLive.com, a statewide website operated by the Springfield Republican, under the headline "Let's meet violence with violence."
One of Pedrini's columns took aim at the men who shot and killed Yarmouth Sgt. Sean Gannon and Weymouth Sgt. Michael Chesna earlier this year. He called them "maggots" and "animals" who "can only be 'rehabilitated' when they are put down."
In the MassLive report, Pedrini hits the criminal-reform bill signed into law in April as a giveaway to "maggot" offenders.
"If you haven't read it, the 'CJ Reform Bill' is 100 plus pages of blather and feel-good initiatives that will do nothing to put maggot criminals behind bars," Pedrini wrote.
The bill eliminated a handful of mandatory-minimum sentences for drug dealing, softened the law for certain juvenile defendants and raised the threshold for felony theft, among other reforms. It also tightened penalties for fentanyl trafficking and established a mandatory minimum sentence for assault and battery on a police officer.
The law was hotly debated in criminal-justice circles, MassLive repoirted, with reformist prosecutors like Attorney General Maura Healey and Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan advocating for the measure and other district attorneys expressing reservations.
Ryan: 'Do not represent department'
Chief Ryan told MassLive that Pedrini's comments do not represent the department's viewpoints or policies. The Arlington Police Department has received recognition for its humane approach to addiction and mental health, which includes having a clinician embedded within the department. And it is one of 10 law enforcement agencies nationwide designated as a mental health training site by the Council of State Governments.
Pedrini did not return an email to MassLive seeking comment before publication.
"Mr. Pedrini writes as an MPA official, not as an official of the APD," Ryan wrote in an email to MassLive. "APD's unwavering commitment to fair and impartial policing has been well documented."
In an interview with MassLive, Ryan said he understands if community members become concerned about Pedrini's approach to conflict resolution after reading his comments.
"I too am concerned and I will take immediate measures to address the situation," Ryan said. "The public doesn't expect us to be perfect, but they expect us to be honest. And I will have a through and transparent review of this matter."
In 2015, three Arlington police officers were awarded the MPA's Life Saving Award for their work during the devastating Arizona Terrace fire May 5 of that year.
Sgt. Bryan Gallagher, Officer Steven Conroy and Officer Will Milner received the award at the 115th annual MPA Conference in Hyannis last week. Lt. Richard Pedrini of the Arlington police and MPA Executive Board member presented the award.
This news summary was published Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, and updated twice that evening, to add two statements as well Oct. 31, to add a photo, a link and Friedman's statement.
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