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Brennan supporters demand reinstatement, accuse police chief, Select Board members of misconduct

by | Feb 7, 2024 | Featured: News, News, Police & Fire

Nearly a dozen supporters of suspended Hopkinton Police Sgt. Tim Brennan demanded his reinstatement at Tuesday night’s Select Board meeting after picketing in front of Town Hall an hour before the meeting commenced.

During several heated exchanges, the supporters accused the Select Board of not hearing their ardent defense of Brennan, who has been on paid administrative leave since May 2023. Brennan was accused of violating police department policy by not reporting information about an alleged sexual assault by a colleague, former Deputy Chief John “Jay” Porter, relating to when Porter was serving as the school resource officer and the alleged survivor was a Hopkinton High School sophomore nearly two decades ago. Porter pleaded not guilty to three counts of child rape in May 2023 in Middlesex Superior Court.

Brennan’s supporters backed his lack of disclosure, saying that he prioritized the confidentiality and safety of the alleged survivor, who placed her trust in him. This confidentiality was shattered on Jan. 19, when Hopkinton Police published an unredacted investigation report on the department’s news blog that revealed the accuser’s first name and other identifying information. The report was taken down two days later. Brennan supporters now accuse Police Chief Joseph Bennett of violating state law by sharing this information. Select Board member Amy Ritterbusch also was criticized by the supporters for publishing the link to the unredacted report on Facebook.

Other supporters kept their focus on Brennan. One such individual was resident Heather Wightman, the executive director of a nonprofit that has assisted hundreds of women who have experienced sexual violence. She called Brennan’s judgment “best practice in the area of victim rights related to the crime of sexual violence.”

“When you walk alongside adult survivors like I do, helping someone heal means helping them rebuild trust in their human relationships,” she said. “That is what Officer Brennan did, and expertly — even though it stood in the way of process.”

This is the second consecutive Select Board meeting where residents expressed their ire over Brennan’s potential termination. Brennan’s fate will be discussed during the continuation of the Jan. 19 Loudermill hearing this Thursday at 5 p.m. at Town Hall. Unlike the previous hearing, this one will be held in executive session, closed to the public.

Brennan-Steven Snow

Resident Steven Snow, one of the many Tim Brennan supporters on hand for Tuesday’s meeting, addresses the Select Board. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

Some residents demanded that Bennett be removed from his position and that Ritterbusch step down in light of the disclosure. Under Massachusetts state law, records related to sex crimes are supposed to be kept secret to protect the survivor’s identity. The supporters called out the perceived hypocrisy of the chief saying that he would have been able to protect the alleged survivor if he had known about the allegations earlier, but he was unable to keep her identity from becoming public knowledge after the Loudermill hearing ended.

Resident Timothy Boivin questioned why the chief was allowed to keep his position when both Porter and Brennan were placed on administrative leave after allegations of misconduct against them surfaced.

“I would like to ask the Select Board why Police Chief Bennett is still serving in his official capacity,” he said, noting that Porter “was allowed to retire with full benefits” before being indicted on the charges in Middlesex Superior Court days later.

“Given that [the Kroll report] contained personal identifying information about the survivor in violation of Massachusetts state law, the chief’s actions are inexcusable,” Boivin continued. “It is obvious that the Town of Hopkinton Police Department is rudderless at this point. Unfortunately, the entire police department has this hanging over its head.”

Boivin called for Bennett’s immediate suspension and asked that the Massachusetts National Guard military police be called in to take over leadership of the HPD.

During the protest and the meeting’s public comment period, a petition circulated that called for a recall election in an attempt to oust members of the Select Board.

“What we have observed of town government has been appalling,” charged resident Peter Fogg, an attorney, asking the Select Board members to resign.

He added that there was “the very real possibility” of criminal charges being brought against Bennett and Ritterbusch and urged viewers to contact Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan regarding the matter. He noted that they each could face up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine for releasing the confidential information to the public.

Steven Snow said he went to the police station to file a police report last week regarding the allegations against Bennett and Ritterbusch. He told the Select Board that he has not yet received a response, causing him to distrust the HPD.

Jim Scanlon began reading a prepared statement “from a group of citizens very concerned about the direction of leadership in this town.” He noted that a complaint was filed in Framingham District Court against Bennett and Ritterbusch, and that this information was forwarded to the DA’s office, the HPD and the civil rights division of the attorney general’s office.

When Scanlon’s two-minute time allotment expired, the reading was continued by other residents who passed a cell phone containing the text. The statement summarized the allegations previously mentioned.

Bennett’s midyear evaluation was scheduled to be conducted during the nearly four-hour Select Board meeting, but it was postponed.

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