Brookfield chief, sergeant acted in New Braintree
By James F. Russell CORRESPONDENT
BROOKFIELD- A selectman's recent discovery that Police Chief Ross B. Ackerman and Sgt. Mitchell E. Mateiko began investigating a crime in New Braintree in 2006 without New Braintree officials' knowledge further imperils the part-time sergeant's future on the force and has worsened the chief's strained relations with one of his bosses.
Chief Ackerman defends his intervention in another town and the actions of the sergeant. The chief said in an interview late last week that he just happened to arrive at the New Braintree crime scene on May 18, 2006, with a friend whose property had been broken into.
Chief Ackerman also asserts New Braintree police were not available to respond, and because "the crime scene was deteriorating, I called ... Detective Sgt. Mateiko, (who) arrived within 20 to 25 minutes."
Gilbert A. DuVernay,
NEW BRAINTREE POLICE CHIEF
New Braintree Police Chief Gilbert A. DuVernay said two New Braintree policemen were on duty and available that day, himself and Officer Kevin M. Landine.
Brookfield police "didn't have any authority to investigate a crime scene in New Braintree," Chief DuVernay said in an interview last week. He said New Braintree police should have been notified of the crime immediately. Because Brookfield police ignored protocol, that did not happen, decreasing the probability of catching the thief or thieves, Chief DuVernay said.
"While we were at the scene, I asked Ross: 'How did it happen that Brookfield was at a New Braintree crime scene?' " Chief DuVernay said. "I forget his explanation, but he assured me it would not happen again." Chief DuVernay added: "I am not aware of any other incidents where one municipality went into another municipality without a request" to do so. Sgt. Mateiko was in plainclothes at the New Braintree crime scene taking fingerprints, Chief DuVernay said.
"The initial call did not go through the dispatch center," Chief DuVernay said. "The dispatch center was not informed until the BOLO (Be On the Lookout) went out." In this case, the alert was to be on the lookout for an 850-pound auto racing engine valued at $40,000 that was missing from the 125 North Brookfield Road, New Braintree, residence of Brookfield Motors Vice President Troy D. Kruzewski in May 2006.
"The thing to do when you are a victim of crime is to call 911. The dispatchers know which police department to call," Chief DuVernay said. "It could have made a difference, especially if the crime occured a short time before it was discovered." The chief said he ordered Officer Landine to the scene when he heard the alert, and went himself shortly thereafter.
Chief Ackerman said, "I contacted dispatch." The chief said he was told it would be "a half-hour to an hour minimum before a New Braintree officer could arrive, to the best of my recollection." He said the case has not been solved and no arrests have been made.
The Telegram & Gazette made several requests last week to obtain the Brookfield police report from Chief Ackerman involving the 2006 New Braintree incident.
On Wednesday the chief said, "I don't know if I still have a copy, seeing that was not our case, per se. At a certain point, that would have been purged. I am not sure if it has been purged." Friday, Chief Ackerman said, "I couldn't find it."
New Braintree police filed a report in May 2006, written by Officer Landine. The department provided a copy to the newspaper a week ago. It notes the presence of Chief Ackerman and Sgt. Mateiko investigating a crime at the Kruzewski residence.
The police report states: "Upon arrival Chief Ackerman met me at the doorway. He began explaining to me that he felt that a large truck backed up to the garage door and a large person forced entry through the side door ... Chief Ackerman told me that he thought we were tied up so he called the detective sergeant (Mateiko) in to help us. A few minutes later he advised me that he wasn't sure if we had anyone certified to do prints."
The report notes that Mr. Kruzewski requested a copy of the document "to submit for insurance reasons." Mr. Kruzewksi identifies the engine as a 580 Herni racing motor worth about $40,000. Mr. Kruzewski said last week the insurance company has not paid on the claim and praised the work of New Braintree police.
Explaining how he ended up at the crime scene, Chief Ackerman said he was interested in purchasing a white Dodge pickup truck from Brookfield Motors, and that he and Mr. Kruzewski, who the chief said is a friend, rode together in the truck to Mr. Kruzewski's house to do an errand.
"I was off duty at the time when it took place," Chief Ackerman said. "I happened to be physically in the area ... he had to pick up something or feed his dog."
Brookfield Selectman Rudolf Heller said in an interview that the New Braintree incident "is of great concern to me. It puts Brookfield in a really questionable light." Mr. Heller opposes reappointing Sgt. Mateiko to the police force. At the Aug. 12 selectmen's meeting, the board members, after being questioned by Chief Ackerman, acknowledged having spoken with an official from another town, but Mr. Heller did not provide details during the meeting.
Brookfield Selectman Ronald Dackson is vigorously defending the chief and the sergeant, telling a reporter that the New Braintree incident "is a non-issue as far as I am concerned."
During interviews, both Mr. Dackson and Chief Ackerman said they think someone told Mr. Heller about the New Braintree incident. The two men said they would like to know who did. The men said they think that information prompted Mr. Heller to make inquiries in New Braintree.
Chief DuVernay told a reporter that Mr. Heller contacted him in July to discuss the matter and that shortly before the Aug. 12 Brookfield selectmen's meeting Chief Ackerman also had contacted him. Chief DuVernay said that Chief Ackerman called "to ask if I had spoken with Heller; I responded truthfully."
At the Aug. 12 meeting Chief Ackerman stated that Mr. Heller's New Braintree fact-finding mission was a "wild goose chase" that "borders on the criminal."
In a letter to selectmen dated June 27, Sgt. Mateiko vociferously objected to the fact that his reappointment has been delayed and took aim at Mr. Heller, accusing him of arbitrary and capricious conduct.
Sgt. Mateiko wrote: "There is no need or reason for the selectmen to overstep their position and protocol to micromanage the department ... It also appears he (Mr. Heller) intends on badgering another selectman into voting his way."
James W. Allen, chairman of the selectmen, said during the Aug. 12 meeting, "In my personal awareness, there is a serious complaint that in my ethical judgment I can not support the appointment" of Sgt. Mateiko. Mr. Allen, the board's chairman, did not elaborate.
Mr. Dackson and Chief Ackerman said during interviews that Mr. Allen has not substantiated his accusation despite requests from them to do so.
Meanwhile, New Braintree police say that in 2006 they referred the crime to state police detectives assigned to the Worcester district attorney's office. Joseph A. Quinlan, a spokesman for District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr., declined last week to comment on the investigation.