Brookfield police vehicles lack inspection stickers
Police chief apologizes for sticker snafu
James F. Russell
BROOKFIELD- Two Brookfield police vehicles lacking valid Massachusetts inspection stickers were put into service this year, Police Chief Ross B. Ackerman acknowledged in an interview yesterday.
Residents reported the problem to the Telegram & Gazette this week.
"At some point, these stickers expired," Chief Ackerman said. "It was an oversight on the part of our fleet manager.
"The bottom line is, our vehicles are safe and we are lenient with inspection stickers for others," the chief said. "I apologize to the public for the oversight."
The police vehicles lacking stickers were a 1997 Ford Crown Victoria and a 1987 Chevrolet four-wheel-drive pickup truck, Chief Ackerman said.
Maintaining the truck has been a problem, the chief said. "If we can get it to run a full four hours today, it will have a sticker today. This has been the worst winter for vehicle maintenance."
The truck runs poorly, he said, and the Police Department is reluctant to bring it for a sticker unless it can run for at least four hours continuously.
The Brookfield Fire Department is also to blame for the police truck not having a sticker, he said.
Police, he said, "lent the truck to the Fire Department for three months last fall because their utility vehicle was out of service. Why didn't they notice the lack of a valid inspection sticker?"
The Fire Department used the truck to transport safety equipment for motor vehicle accidents, Chief Ackerman said.
"This vehicle has performed some extremely difficult off-road duties," he said. "The fact it had no sticker does not change the fact we have needed to respond to emergencies in difficult terrain and in blizzards."
Contacted yesterday, state Police Lt. Marian McGovern, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Public Safety, said, "State police cruisers are required to have current inspection stickers; I am not aware of any exemption" for municipal police vehicles.
The four-wheel-drive truck is used, the chief said, "to transport the police boat; during snowstorms; for patrols if other vehicles are unavailable; and for off-road missions."
The four-wheel-drive vehicle was useful during the search that located Brookfield resident Gary F. Bonneau, whose body was found Feb. 7, the chief said. Mr. Bonneau was found in wooded and rocky terrain several thousand feet off Cronin Road in Warren, police said then.
"One reason the vehicles were not inspected," Chief Ackerman said, was because "I have been on light duty - 20 hours per week - since September."
The chief said his light duty stems from an on-duty injury in January 2001. "I was T-boned," he said, referring to the way another vehicle hit his vehicle at a right angle, "and the severity of the back pain was tremendous. I was not able to sleep and therefore went on light duty."
A salaried employee, the chief has been collecting full pay. The town is looking into salary reimbursement from the insurance company, he said.
"I probably would have spotted there was no inspection stickers, had I been putting in my regular 50 to 60 hours per week," he said. "I am hoping to be back full time in March."
Explaining why the 1997 Crown Victoria was not inspected, the chief said the cruiser "was refurbished last year and was put back on the road in late December." He said the cruiser passed inspection this month, but declined to specify the date.
The Police Department's two other cruisers "had stickers all along," he said.