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Does this guy not know his role? Or is that just my opinion, and only mine...
Fall River Police Chief Says No Help Needed To Police City
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson Wants To Intervene

POSTED: 7:44 pm EDT May 6, 2005
UPDATED: 8:10 pm EDT May 6, 2005

FALL RIVER, Mass. -- Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson wants his deputies to help keep crime in check in Fall River. But not everybody in the city wants to see them on the streets.

When deputies started patrolling high-crime areas of New Bedford a couple of years ago, the city went to court to get an injunction. It lost the lawsuit, so Hodgson said he has the responsibility and resources to help Fall River, where he said crime threatens to take over some city streets.

The city is not interested. But Hodgson called pursuing crime -- especially drug dealers -- his business too. So, he said he will send deputies to Fall River "whether we get cooperation or not and we see that there is a threat to any citizen that we could prevent."

"If his true intent was to help us, why didn't he call me?" said Chief John Souza, of the Fall River Police Department.

But according to Hodgson, Souza would rather protect his turf than protect his people. "It just doesn't make sense," he said.

A shooting at Larry's Bar and a murder a week later gave the impression of a crime wave. But Souza called it a ripple, saying his officers "are more than capable of policing the city of Fall River."

Many agree.

"Fall River crime should be followed by Fall River police," said Amy Doucette, of Fall River.

But others would like to see a sheriff car parked on the street.

"I'm going to be safe," said Louis Leitao, who is a business owner in Fall River.

But Souza said uninvited help means, 'We don't think you're doing your job. We need to come and help you."

Critics argue that deputies don't have enough training and don't know the neighborhoods or the people.

Souza said he will meet with Hodgson and Fall River Mayor Ed Lambert next week to try to come to some type of understanding.

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Border Wars
Gregg M. Miliote, Herald News Staff Reporter05/05/2005

Despite some public and private overtures made by Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson recently, the city's police chief says his officers are doing the job, and an influx of sheriff's deputies in Fall River could do more harm than good.

Hodgson, though, said he can't understand why Fall River doesn't want his assistance in dealing with escalating crime and gang activity in certain sections of the city.

But the veteran sheriff is no stranger to controversy when it comes to using his deputies for law enforcement in some Bristol County cities and towns.

He raised the ire of New Bedford police and politicians in 2003 when he began increasing deputy patrols in that city. The sheriff was met with stiff opposition and a court challenge, but he eventually won out when a Superior Court judge rejected a restraining order against the patrols filed by the city.

Although Hodgson has not ordered his deputies into Fall River, he did say the courts have proven he has the authority to do so.

And, Hodgson said he has tried to help, but he pointed to one incident when police officials ignored intelligence he attempted to provide to the city about the infamous Mafioso gang, he said.

The gang rocked the city recently when one of its alleged members was arrested forgunning down four people inside a Morgan Street bar last month. Another alleged member was arrested by police while wearing body armor and armed with a loaded Intratec-9mm automatic rifle. A third man who claimed to be a member who wanted out of the violent drug gang was beaten and slashed with a machete, allegedly by three other Mafioso members in March.

But Fall River police were quick to respond to the escalating violence. Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr. and Fall River Police Chief John M. Souza announced the addition of 14 new officers in the wake of the Larry's Sports Bar shooting.

Souza also helped devise Operation Blue Thunder, which increased undercover and uniformed patrols of high crime areas.

Hodgson, though, asserts such reactionary measures don't address what he calls a less-than-welcoming attitude from city officials.

Hodgson says his own gang unit attempted to provide Fall River with extensive intelligence reports about the Mafioso gang more than a year ago, but was rebuffed.

"We have very detailed information about this group, including their doctrine, the identities of their key leaders, where they operate and when they meet," Hodgson said. "But when we tried to give them all this information a year-and-a-half ago, my intelligence officers were told Fall River wasn't taking this gang seriously and wouldn't take the information from us. They said Mafioso was a wannabe gang and it was not something they were concerned with."

Hodgson also noted Nigel Vaughn was among the names in the "rejected" report. Vaughn allegedly opened fire inside Larry's Sports Bar last month after he discovered other individuals were dealing crack in his "territory."

"We could have gotten this guy and lots of others off the streets if there was some level of cooperation," Hodgson said. "Our information was right on the money."

But Souza, responding to Hodgson's allegations, said he knows nothing about a rejected intelligence report.

"I question why I wasn't called by the sheriff or his deputies on this," Souza said. "But believe me, I am extremely confident we know who's in Mafioso and what their hierarchy is. We know about all the other gangs, also. Our gang unit knows what they're talking about and who they're looking for."

The police chief said his department routinely accepts "valuable information" gleaned by correctional officers who receive information about criminals inside county jails.

"We appreciate their assistance and do want to continue to work with them when needed," Souza said.

Hodgson also accused Lambert of ignoring his requests for a meeting immediately after the Larry's Sports Bar shootings.

"I spoke with the mayor weeks ago asking him to sit down with us and come up with possible solutions to the city's crime problem, but I've received no response," Hodgson said. "How the mayor acts as a leader will really determine how well things work out in his city."

But Lambert says he wants to have further discussions with the sheriff.

"My job is to be open-minded. None of this has anything to do with my relationship with the sheriff," Lambert said. "There is an ongoing effort to work with a lot of different agencies, including the sheriff's office. The sheriff has been included in the heroin task force and the LNG security plan."

Lambert said he would like to avoid the kind of controversy that was touched off in New Bedford when sheriff's deputies began operating inside the Whaling City two years ago, but also said he leaves all tactical decisions on law enforcement to Souza.

"I have authorized the chief to use any resources and authority he needs," Lambert explained. "But I really don't think this is a manpower issue that can be solved by having more sheriff's deputies in the city."

He said he believes Souza and his officers are up to the challenge. Lambert also hailed the results of Operation Blue Thunder as a sign of progress.

During just two weekends, the crackdown has resulted in the arrest of 49 suspected criminals in Corky Row and Maple Gardens.

The added "saturation" patrols have also been well received by a majority of the law-abiding citizens living in Corky Row. During one recent roundup of criminals, residents were seen applauding the arresting officers.

Souza said he has "the utmost respect" for the sheriff and what he does, but is respectfully asking him not to push this issue.

"There are many reasons why having sheriff's deputies making arrests in Fall River is not a good idea," Souza said. "We have no idea what kind of training they have, they are not tied into our 911 system, which would cause more delays in response to incidents, and their law enforcement responsibilities are limited by the Legislature."

Souza also said he believes clashes between the two departments working the same city would be inevitable.

"There were clashes in New Bedford when the sheriff decided to send deputies into that city," Souza said. "The clashes would happen here and create a real problem."

Several calls placed to the New Bedford Police Department for comment on its current relationship with the Sheriff's Office were not returned during the past week.

Souza and Hodgson agreed territorial issues are a large part of the perceived problem, but they have differing views on whether the matter needs to be resolved.

Hodgson says "petty arguments about the differences between the two badges" leads to more crime. But Souza says the territorial issues will always exist and said it's not a huge problem.

"Our officers are of the opinion that we can police this city without the assistance of the sheriff," Souza said. "We're familiar with the criminal element in this city, while their deputies are not. They do a wonderful job at what they do, but they're not law enforcement officers."

But Hodgson contends cooperation between the two departments and an added police presence makes a lot of sense.

"We're not looking to take over their jobs. But we do want to get the bad guys off the streets as fast as we can," Hodgson said. "The people of Fall River have a right to our resources. It's all their taxpayer money.

"Let's stop bickering and focus on getting the thugs off the streets together."

But Souza said Hodgson may be exaggerating the problem, and said his officers are volunteering to work extra shifts in an effort to keep the city's residents safe.

"The Fall River Police Department is doing the job and will continue to work even harder to keep this community safe," Souza said. "There is a common misconception out there that the sheriff is in charge of all law enforcement around here.

"This is not personal at all. It's just business."

E-Mail Gregg M. Miliote at [email protected].

©The Herald News 2005

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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."

E-mail Gregg M. Miliote at

[email protected].
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