Interim police chief fired after pulling over dangerous driver who nearly crashed into parked vehicles

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MILFORD, MA- Let’s file this one under “bizarre.” The police chief in the suburban Boston community of Milford has been fired by the selectboard in that town after it was determined he had “breached” his contract.

Chief Michael Pighetti was terminated following an investigation into a traffic stop he made earlier this year, according to the Milford Daily News.

Last week, the three-member board exited a contractual rights hearing in executive session, whereafter chairman Michael Walsh announced the board voted unanimously to terminate his contract.

They found Pighetti breached his contract, saying he violated the department’s rules and regulations, exercised unauthorized police powers, failed to supervise personnel and unlawfully stopped a motorist.

Sounds pretty egregious, right? Exactly what happened?

Pighetti has been on paid leave since February pending the results of an investigation which came about after the board received a complaint about him. Lt. James Falvey has served as acting chief for the past eight months. Sounds like a pretty complicated investigation, no?

After he was placed on leave in February, a Worcester law firm sent a letter on behalf of the chief to a number of news outlets defending Pighetti from the allegations, the Daily News reported at the time.

“I want the community to hear directly from me on these issues,” the letter read, “so that the record can be set straight, and the facts can be known, including the community awareness that my actions were legitimate, justified, and necessary to protect public safety.”

Pighetti said that he was prepared to speak at the February meeting and in fact was asked by then chairman William Kingkade Jr. if he wanted to say anything, however, was shut down by Selectman Thomas O’Loughlin who said it would be inappropriate for the chief to speak.

Pighetti explained in the letter the reason for the traffic stop in question. He said he was operating his town-issued unmarked police cruiser last Jan. 28 and saw a vehicle run a red light near downtown. The vehicle was speeding, crossed the center line and nearly hit several parked vehicles.

“I obviously was concerned by these observations,” the chief wrote, “not only based upon the potential harm that it created for persons and property in the area, but also because it could have been the case that the driver was suffering from a medical emergency or otherwise was impaired.”

Pighetti said that he activated his cruiser lights, then siren to pull the vehicle over. Pighetti, who doesn’t have police powers (more on that in a minute) said he immediately requested assistance from the police department, and when arriving officers arrived, he explained the situation but didn’t instruct officers on what to do.

“I issued no orders or instructions to the officers as to what they should do. I left the scene,” he wrote.

The operator of the vehicle ended up being cited for having an invalid license, but was not charged for the moving violations, nor was he determined to be impaired, Pighetti wrote.

“My justified actions were motivated solely by the desire to protect the safety and security of our community members.”

He continued:

“I am prepared to defend my actions as proper and legitimate, although it seems clear that a majority of the Board already has arrived at negative determinations prior to hearing from me and before any investigation occurs.”

When Pighetti was appointed interim police chief in June 2019 over Falvey then deputy chief, he had been out of police work for five years.

Based on Massachusetts Police Training Committee guidelines, he was required to re-take the state’s police academy course prior to having access to full police powers, including the authority to pull someone over. 

According to MPTC guidelines where a temporary waiver is granted, the training waiver is good for a period of 270 days, “during which the officer must be enrolled and in attendance at a police academy.” It is unknown if Chief Pighetti every attended or graduated from such an academy.

Eight months after his interim appointment, Pighetti was offered a more permanent position, signing a three-year contract with the selectboard, however still with the title of interim chief.

In June 2019, the Training Committee told the Daily News that Massachusetts law was clear about what authority someone who hasn’t completed required police training or recertification isn’t able to make arrests or conduct searches and seizures.

What is less clear is if other police powers are authorized, such as pulling over a vehicle, the Committee’s executive director said.

When he was offered the three-year job as interim chief in March 2020, Pighetti had not even applied for the position, having been offered the job after the town’s first pick—Baltimore Police Commander James Rhoden—turned down the offer.

Pighetti’s predecessor…Thomas O’Loughlin, whose contract expired in June 2019 after selectmen voted not to renew it…followed up with a number of lawsuits filed against the town.

Ironically, O’Loughlin now serves as a member of the selectboard. The same O’Loughlin who denied Pighetti the opportunity to speak on his own behalf at the meeting during which he was put on paid leave.

We will follow up on this situation as more details become available. 

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For a prior report we filed on another police chief being terminated, we invite you to:

DIG DEEPER

PORTSMOUTH, VA – Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene was terminated Monday morning after being suspended from her position as Police Chief approximately two months ago. 

Interim police chief fired after pulling over dangerous driver who nearly crashed into parked vehicles
Screenshot courtesy of WAVY-TV Portsmouth

Chief Green was suspended on September 4th by the former city manager, just weeks after she brought felony charges against Democrat State Senator Louise Lucas and others in relation to protests and monument destruction that occurred June 8th. 

Senator Lucas was caught on video instructing Portsmouth Police officers to stand down during the protests.

 

Greene stated during an interview with WAVY-TV of Portsmouth/Hampton Roads, VA:

“I believe I was wrongfully terminated for upholding the law, and [I’m] being retaliated against for sticking to my sworn oath; that I swore to serve and protect my citizens, community and keeping my officers safe.”

Greene worked with Richmond Police for 15 years before joining the Portsmouth department as  assistant chief in 2016.

At the last city council meeting, the city manager told council members that Greene had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into her personnel file. Greene was appointed Chief of Police in March 2019.  

On June 10, 2020,  protestors gathered around monuments in Portsmouth and spray painted several statues.  

As the demonstration wore on, police were told by Senator Lucas that they couldn’t arrest protestors. She claimed she wasn’t directing the protestors but directing the police.

She stated on video:

“I’m not telling them to do anything. I’m telling you, you can’t arrest them.”

Later that evening, protestors damaged four statues.  One fell on a bystander as it toppled, seriously injuring the man.

After an investigation by Portsmouth Police, Chief Greene announced charges to be filed. Greene announced that charges had been brought against 14 people, including Senator Lucas, NAACP members, a school board member, and several public defenders. 

Senator Lucas has continually proclaimed that the police had no right to move or stop her and the people assembled to destroy the statue.

All 14 were charged with “felony injury to a monument.” Additionally, eight were charged with conspiracy. Most of the charges levied by Greene were dismissed as she was formally terminated. 

The commonwealth’s attorney and city manager said they didn’t know police were filing charges.

A few days after the announcement of charges, the city manager sent out an email. In it, he stated  that Portsmouth Police were supposed to drop the investigation due to a conflict of interest. There was no further explanation.

Chief Greene has said that she tried to have an outside agency investigate because of the potential conflict involved.  After “all efforts were exhausted,” Greene had her department to do it. 

Greene added Monday:

“You get knocked down but you don’t stay down.  Going forward, it is going to be a long, dark journey.”

Chief Angela Greene holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Pre-Law and Political Science from Fairleigh Dickinson University located in Madison, New Jersey. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with University Honors, Political Science Honors and a member of Pi Sigma Alpha Honor Society. 

She served first as an officer, and then sergeant in Richmond, VA, where she supervised the Personnel & Recruitment Unit, Cadet Program, and Training Academy.

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Police chief charges state senator, black leaders with felonies. The vice mayor wants her fired… because her mommy is the senator.

August 24, 2020

PORTSMOUTH, VA – Two top offices in Portsmouth, Virginia appear to be in a public showdown again. It’s the latest twist in city level drama that’s hit national headlines all summer.

Some residents tell local TV station WAVY they want the vice mayor, Lisa Lucas-Burke, arrested.

Meanwhile, Lucas-Burke wants Police Chief Angela Greene fired.

The women, along with many other public officials in the city of about 100,000 people, have been tangled in scandal since June.

It all started with the destruction of a Confederate monuments.

Earlier this summer a group toppled a statue made up of four Confederate soldiers.

One of the soldiers fell on a man who was reportedly part of the demonstration but did not take part in the actual destruction of the monument. His wife told 13 News Now that her husband was so seriously injured that he flatlined in the ambulance and doctors later put him into a medically induced coma.

Following his injury, police launched an investigation.

Last week, Police Chief Greene announced felony charges against fourteen people, including high profile Black leaders in the area and State Senator Louise Lucas.

Sen. Lucas is facing charges for conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument in excess of $1,000.

Following the charges, Sen. Lucas has reportedly said only, “I will be vindicated.”

In a statement to WAVY, her attorney spoke about police and the arrest of his client:

“Consequently, they’re doing what they always do which is they weaponize the criminal justice system against black leadership and that’s what they’re doing. This time we’re going to fight it vehemently, we’re going to fight it vigorously.”

Now, here’s where it starts to get complicated.

Sen. Lucas is the mother of Portsmouth Vice Mayor Lucas-Burke.

In the days since Chief Greene announced the charges, Vice Mayor Lucas-Burke has called for her termination.

During a press conference, covered by WAVY, she said she wanted answers about the investigation and the police chief’s decision to make the arrests, so she reached out to the city manager. Lucas-Burke said at the press conference:

“I am upset, and it’s not just because it’s my mother, but because I am a member of Portsmouth City Council. I ask the city manager if she knew about the charges, she says she knew nothing about it. The city attorney didn’t know anything. Who is running the goddamn city?”

The backlash has now come full circle.

Some say Lucas-Burke’s comments violated a section of the city charter that says council members cannot call for the firing or resignation of any city employee.

Section 2.33 of the city charter reads:

“Neither the council nor any of its members shall direct or request the appointment of any person to or his removal from any office or employment by the city manager or by any of his subordinates or in any way take part in the appointment or removal of officers and employees of the city except as specifically provided in the Charter.”

Virginia Beach attorney Tim Anderson launched an effort to recall Sen. Lucas from public office after the June protest.

He posted a video to Facebook Friday which includes a clip of the vice mayor speaking at the news conference where she called for the resignation or firing of the police chief. The caption for his video includes charter code which says it’s a class 3 misdemeanor for a member of the council to call for the removal of someone from employment with the city.

Lucas-Burke fired back in front of news cameras:

“I can express my opinion, just like any other citizen, and I am an elected official of this community so I have a responsibility to relay their [the public] concerns.”

High ranking officers appear to be backing their chief.

In an email to city council members written by investigating officer Sergeant Kevin McGee and released by WAVY, Sgt. McGee reportedly praised the police chief and called Lucas-Burke’s criticisms “disgusting” and “repulsive.”

In case you missed it, here’s the original report on the arrest:

PORTSMOUTH, VA – A Virginia state senator faces felony charges in connection with the destruction of a Confederate monument that led to the severe, and likely life-altering, injuries of a protester.

Law Enforcement Today has written numerous articles on the vandalism, desecration and outright destruction of monuments and memorials around this country over the past few months as rioters have taken it upon themselves to create a Utopian society where lawlessness is the new normal and history is forgotten.

Typically, when arrests are made and charges are filed, the story contains a photo of a 20-something white kid still living in the parents’ basement and whose allowance is spent on hair dye and Red Bull.

But that is no longer the only face of the destructive force targeting our monuments and memorials.

Sen. Louise Lucas is now one of those faces. She is a Democrat state senator in Virginia representing parts of Portsmouth. The rest of the city is represented by Republican John Cosgrove.

Interim police chief fired after pulling over dangerous driver who nearly crashed into parked vehicles
Facebook Screenshot

According to her state Senate website, Lucas, a deacon at New Olivet Baptist Church, has been a state senator since 1992. She is a member of numerous committees, including judiciary and rules.  

This past Monday, Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene confirmed that Lucas has been charged for her role in the incident that occurred on June 10.

Chief Greene said:

“But what is important to note, is that, of all the incidents that occurred across our nation, our incident was the only incident that resulted in a man being gravely injured.” 

So, what exactly happened in this case?

The Daily Press reported:

“Demonstrators beheaded the four Confederate statues before pulling one down using a tow rope Wednesday night at the Portsmouth Confederate monument as police watched. A protester was injured as the statue fell, hitting him on the head.

Louie Gibbs, vice president of the Portsmouth NAACP, said the man, who was in his 30’s, lost consciousness. The man’s head was cut open, and he was transported to the hospital.”

Chris Green, a husband and father of two, is currently at a rehabilitation hospital in Richmond, according to his wife, where he is learning how to walk and talk again.

He cannot currently do either, but he can drink liquids and responds to prompts from the therapists. He also reportedly flat-lined twice in the ambulance.

It is ironic that Gibbs was involved in the statement above. He, along with two other representatives of the local chapter of the NAACP as well as a school board member, is facing the same charges as Lucas.

The charges being brought against her are conspiracy to commit a felony and injury to a monument in excess of $1,000, according to Fox 8.

Facing only the latter of those charges are three local public defenders.

In all, 15 people are facing one or both of those charges.

More charges could be produced as the investigation continues. Chief Greene asked that anyone with an active warrant against them turn themselves in.

Police are still trying to identify 13 other people. Detectives released the photos of them on Monday but had to take them down after the photographer claimed copyrights on the photos.

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