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Boisterous Brennan hearing crowd demands accountability from Select Board, police

by | Jan 20, 2024 | Featured: News, News

Tim Brennan hearing crowd

The crowd at the Senior Center frequently expressed support for Tim Brennan. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

Tempers flared at Friday night’s Loudermill hearing, with many audience members shouting their displeasure toward the Select Board and the Hopkinton police chief.

The Loudermill hearing was convened to discuss the potential termination of Sgt. Tim Brennan. He was accused of violating five Hopkinton Police Department policies that mainly centered around his failure to report knowledge of alleged sexual assaults against a minor by colleague John “Jay” Porter. Porter retired as deputy chief before he pleaded not guilty to three counts of child rape in Middlesex District Court. These alleged assaults occurred when Porter served as the town’s school resource officer (SRO).

Brennan assumed the SRO role upon Porter’s promotion in 2005, which was how Brennan connected with the student and learned of her circumstances over a period of several years — many years after the incidents occurred.

At the start, Select Board chair Muriel Kramer appealed to the standing room only audience to maintain a sense of decorum during the emotionally charged proceedings. She made it clear that there would be no public comment period during this hearing, and that attendees who made outbursts would be removed. But despite several disruptions and three brief recesses to restore order, no one was directed to leave.

Kramer’s goal was to bring about a sense of “restorative justice” to the proceedings. At several points, she reminded the attorneys and her Select Board colleagues to refer to the person who was allegedly assaulted as “the survivor” rather than “the victim.”

She also pointed out that both Brennan and HPD Chief Joseph Bennett have “dedicated decades of service in uniform in Hopkinton.”

“I expect all present will be respectful and not disrupt the proceedings,” she said. “I know this isn’t easy for anyone. And I know for some, emotions are running high.”

This became apparent at several points during the hearing. When the three incidents involving the survivor were described, there were audible gasps. This also occurred when an alleged incident was detailed describing Porter visiting the survivor’s dorm room on her 18th birthday. Simultaneously, a few attendees noted that the survivor was then 18 and an adult. Whether or not that part of the relationship between them was truly consensual was not detailed.

Applause burst out when Brennan’s attorney, Daniel Fogarty, pointed out several of the allegations made against the sergeant about breaking policy referred to policies enacted after the alleged actions took place.

Fogarty also noted that Brennan had specialized training in the Rape Aggression Defense system, more commonly known as RAD. Brennan said he trained about 1,000 women in this program.

The police reporting policy for sexual offenses at the time Brennan became aware of them was that the officer must bring the issue to the attention of the deputy chief and chief. But when Brennan learned of the most serious allegations, he would have been required to report the alleged incidents to Porter, the alleged perpetrator of the felonies.

Calls for a policy change resonated in the room. Some people said the case against Porter would not have come to light if Brennan hadn’t provided a supportive environment where the survivor could relate her story to him.

Brennan, who has worked for the HPD for 22 years, noted that there had never been disciplinary action against him previously. He acknowledged that the situation has been “traumatic for the victim and also for our entire community,” as well as his family.

Brennan stressed that while he has made “thousands of judgment calls,” his actions in this case may not have been the best, describing himself as “human.”

“I tried to act in an ethical and supportive manner,” he stressed. “I did not meet the expectations of the policy.”

Frustration was vented toward the Select Board as well as the HPD by the crowd. As members questioned Brennan about why he didn’t come forward with information sooner so that Porter could have been prevented from moving up the ranks and potentially harming other young women, the audience became rowdy. Some said Select Board members should be remembered at election time.

When Bennett said he would have fired Porter immediately had he known earlier, the crowd erupted, spurring a recess. Several women began to chant, “Shame on you!”

During one recess, residents gathered in clusters to voice their opinions. Several stressed Brennan’s value to the community and support of the survivor. This may have influenced the decision to continue the hearing so the two sides could negotiate an acceptable resolution instead of termination.

At the meeting’s end, Brennan thanked his supporters as the majority of the people rose to their feet, clapping and cheering.

All attendees asked by the Independent for comments declined, despite being vocal during the proceedings.

“Can’t you read the room?” said one man, who wouldn’t give his name.

1 Comment

  1. Chris Swezey

    Brennan had a duty to report, legally or not. Termination is the only appropriate outcome. Overlooking gross misconduct sends a message that the old connections run the town, not common sense.

    The Chairwoman should step aside. If she TOLD town residents they could not comment or the police would remove them, she is not building community, and she is ignoring what she does not wish to hear. This is bias.

    The role of the Chair is to oversee the Board, to benefit the residents. She is leaving many tax paying residents out of her calculus. What is her role again?

    Removing both of these people from any role affiliated with the town is the path to moving ahead.

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