Walsh: Sheriff unhelpful
Gregg M. Miliote , Herald News Staff Reporter
FALL RIVER -- Bristol County District Attorney Paul Walsh is throwing his support behind Police Chief John M. Souza in the fight to keep sheriff's deputies from interfering with city police work.
A day after Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson declared that he may send his deputies into Fall River to quell escalating crime and gang activity, Walsh characterized the move as a simple "publicity stunt."
The district attorney also predicted Hodgson will leave Fall River once the headlines fade away.
"I saw it happen in New Bedford two years ago, when he decided to come in on the white horse to try to save the day," Walsh said. "As soon as the headlines died down, his deputies were gone. They're not out there anymore."
But Hodgson is calling Walsh's comments on this issue "irrelevant and double-speak."
"Mr. Walsh is an attorney, not a law enforcement officer," Hodgson said. "I am a cop and I know how the street works.
His opinion is just a personal one and doesn't hold much weight with me."
Walsh asserted the responsible thing for Hodgson to do would be to set up meetings with the mayor's office and the police chief instead of going to the media.
"This is not well thought-out by the sheriff," Walsh said. "We need professionalism not publicity."
He went on to say he shared Souza's concerns about the deputies' training, communication problems and disjointed approach to the current issue.
"I really echo the chief's sentiments. We don't need two departments or two police chiefs in Fall River," Walsh said. "The chief and his officers are doing the best they can and they're making some real strides. It's not good public policy to have the sheriff just come out and try to show up a police department by accusing them of ignoring information."
Souza said he appreciated Walsh's support for his stance on this matter.
"We spoke for about 15 minutes (Thursday morning), and it was nice because it was unsolicited," Souza said.
Walsh said he has seen incidents where sheriff's deputies acting on their own have hindered long-running undercover operations or ruined chances for prosecution due to jurisdictional issues raised when the criminal case entered the court system.
"Lives can be put in danger without the proper, well thought-out communication. For the sheriff to just come into a city and start making arrests is a recipe for disaster," Walsh asserted. "If there were riots in the jails, I wouldn't just come in and take them over. It's just not good public policy, and the people don't want this."
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