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Brimfield Selectmen dismiss entire police force


The Associated Press
7/4/2003, 8:07 p.m. ET


BRIMFIELD, Mass. (AP) -- Acting chief Robert A. Boucher now heads a two-person department, including himself, after selectmen here dismissed all 18 of the town's police officers.


Selectmen learned Thursday that by not reappointing the force's lieutenant, sergeant and 16 patrolmen by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, they had in effect dismissed all those officers. They affirmed that decision Thursday, asking officers to turn in their badges and keys.

A woman, who was not a previous member of the department, was appointed as an auxiliary officer on Monday, The Republican of Springfield reported for Saturday editions.

The move comes days before the Brimfield Outdoor Antique Shows reopen, drawing thousands of bargain hunters to this town of more than 3,000 about 20 miles east of Springfield. The board decided that the town will instead rely on paid detail officers for the time being.

Selectmen said they decided to hold off on appointing officers until they name a new police chief, which they expect to do by early August.

But dismissed officers say the move was retaliation for their attempts to unionize.

"This is based on the fact that we have been organizing a union," Brimfield Police Association president Charles H. Laperle said. "We set up a union and then we all lose our jobs, that's more than a coincidence."

But Robert C. Cheney, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, told the Telegram & Gazette or Worcester the officers' union drive "has absolutely nothing to do with the issue we are dealing with here." He said state police are covering the town 16 hours a day.

Selectmen said they decided to dismiss the entire force after Lt. Earl J. Dessert informed them in writing of a complication in state law. He told the board that state law indicates officers had no authority to function as police because they had not been reappointed by June 30.

After consulting with its legal counsel, the board decided to dismiss the entire force.

Selectmen said officers from surrounding towns have offered to help. But the dismissed Brimfield officers said they're doubtful that officers from other towns would be eager to help.

"I think it would be about the same as crossing a picket line," Laperle said. "After all, this is a labor dispute."

The antique shows are expected to attract about 30,000 during a six-day run.

Former town police offers said they will be talking to state and federal labor officials about filing a complaint against the town.

News that the town would likely have no officers for the event alarmed Kenneth E. Benway of Ludlow. He wasn't planning to tightly shutter his "Home of the $1 Burger" business on Route 20. But now he will.

"Anybody that's got stuff here has got to be worried," Benway said.
 

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When non-civil service and small town politics clash!

This was an issue where the Dept. wanted a Union and the Selectman needed a reason to fix the problem.
 

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Didn't something like this happen in Spencer a few years back? So what now, the town is going to want the state to patrol and have the Hampden County Deputies do all the detail work during the antique show.

Sounds to me like the selectman are trying to take control of the dept.
 

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Hope this one pans out for the Union Officer's. Good Luck if there are any on here.
 

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Personally, if offered, I don't think I would take any work in the town of Brimfield as an outside agency (state, county, other towns). There are some complicated ethical issues, weather you loyalty is to your brother officers who got screwed or to the higher authority to public safety, i.e. if nobody agrees to work, it could be kind of hairy at this event. I'm sure there is some way also that the state or county officers could be forced to work here, should it come down to that. Not really up on my labor law though.
 

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I agree Pearl. Any labor law issues aside (no idea what they would be), This is a very touchy subject. Where should you draw the line between your sworn duty to help and supporting your brothers and sisters who got screwed. For me, I'd have to say "Thanks, but no thanks. You have perfectly good officers who are ready and willing to do the job. Give them some support and you won't need me."

To the selectman, I have this message:
"...In essence, be considerate, treat your subordinates right, and they will literally die for you."
-Lieutenant General Melvin Zais


-Eric
 

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This whole thing sucks, any outside agency who did details at the flea market should be ashamed, (you crossed the picket line). The disbanding of this department is terrible for the residents of Brimfield and the surrounding towns. Contrary to what the media and selectman say about the State Police patrolling the town this is untrue. C5 covers a large area and are not just patrolling Brimfield. Many towns in this area only have 1 cop on the road at a time and all these towns rely on each other and the State Police as backup. There is now a much greater risk to all other officeers in neighboring towns as Brimfield PD is no longer there as backup.
 

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The only officers that crossed the line were from Webster PD. Once word got back to the station, both men were reminded that police officers stick together. They were soon whisked away by a Webster cruiser.

As for back up, you are correct. We rely upon each other (neighboring towns) every night. One of the main reasons we feel we needed to organize was when the Selectmen Chairman, Robert Cheney was quoted during a discussion on mutual aid, "Officer safety is not my concern".
 

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BPD747,

I heard about those Webster guys, Im glad they were taken away.. Thats pretty sad that the selectman said that, but you know how that goes in small towns.. Good luck to all you guys, good bunch of cops and good people in general.
 

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BPD747, best of luck to you!! I hope things work out in the end and everyone gets their jobs back - with retro pay!

Apparently, none of those selectmen have ever needed the police... or they are not Brimfield residents. This is retarded!

-Mike
 
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