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Female officer added to the ranks: Dept. bans police from dealing with family cases
By Chas Sisk
Staff writer

BEVERLY - The city of Beverly has a female patrolman on its force for the first time in eight years. The police have also tightened their policy for responding to domestic violence calls, quietly addressing two areas in which they have been criticized.

In the last two weeks, the Beverly Police Department hired Darlene Prinz, the first woman to work as a full-time patrolman in Beverly since 1996, and has adopted a policy banning officers from responding to calls involving their own relatives, likely the first such policy in the state.

The moves appear to be the first of a series of expected reforms sought by city officials following the murder of a Centerville woman by her fiancé, the son of a Beverly patrolman. Police Chief John Cassola confirmed the moves but declined to discuss them.

More reforms could be announced soon. City officials have been awaiting a detailed plan since early November, when the firm Matrix Consulting Group found that Beverly police are floundering, with no clear goals, a police force of almost only white men and operating procedures that are years out of date.

Cassola said this week he did not intend to put such a plan together for at least another month. But this week Mayor William Scanlon said he expects a comprehensive response to the report sooner.

"We're going to be paying a whole lot of attention to this in January," Scanlon said. "Let's just say that."

The policies of the Beverly Police Department have been under review since last December, when Lori Corbett, a 26-year-old Essex Street resident, was stabbed by her fiancé Jason Beals, who then killed himself.

Three days before the crime, a fight between the two prompted Corbett's mother, Gail, to call Beverly police for assistance. That call was handled by Beals' father, Raymond, a patrolman who was working as a dispatcher that night. Raymond Beals retired in January rather than face disciplinary proceedings.

The murder led city officials to hire Matrix, a Palo Alto, Calif., firm that specializes in police studies. The firm conducted a comprehensive review of the department and sent the city a 172-page draft of the report on Nov. 8.

One of Matrix's recommendations was to hire more female officers. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Police Department hired three women, but they have since resigned, with two of them filing sexual harassment suits.

Beverly police provided no other biographical information about Prinz, other than to confirm her gender. They also did not respond to a request for information about Richard Russo, a nephew of Cassola, who was hired on the same day.

Since the Corbett murder, the Police Department has also been criticized for allowing patrolmen to answer domestic violence calls involving their relatives. Matrix did not address the issue directly - the firm said only that the department should update all its response procedures - but Corbett's parents and many city officials have called on the police to adopt such a rule.

Beverly police did formally adopt that rule Dec. 3, Cassola said this week.

The department is probably the first in Massachusetts to specifically ban an officer from dealing with their relatives, said Jon Tiplady, a retired Danvers police lieutenant who now conducts domestic violence training courses nationally.

"They will be setting a precedent," he said.

Reporter Jill Harmacinski contributed to this story.

Staff writer Chas Sisk can be reached at (978) 338-2582 or by e-mail at [email protected].
 
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