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Police union lashes out at Select Board for delaying officers’ promotions

by | Sep 7, 2023 | Featured: News, News, Police & Fire

The Select Board’s decision Tuesday to delay consideration of the promotion of two Hopkinton police officers until a departmental review is complete drew immediate criticism, and that continued Thursday with an open letter to the Select Board from police union vice president Cody Normandin.

Normandin, a Hopkinton patrol officer, called out Select Board chair Muriel Kramer in particular and requested further explanation as to why the decision was made and why the officers and family members who were in attendance could not have been notified in advance.

Noting the town’s recent struggles to recruit qualified police candidates — a problem not just in Hopkinton but nationwide — Normandin questioned how this action will affect a department striving to overcome short-staffing issues.

The union (officially the Hopkinton Police Arbitration Association) represents officers from the rank of patrol officer to sergeant. Normandin noted that this letter does not reflect the opinions of the administration, the chief, the department as an entity or the town.

Below is the letter in its entirety:

Members of the Select Board:

The treatment of our members in a public forum during the September 5, 2023, Select Board meeting was nothing short of disgraceful. We are appalled at the humiliation our members were forced to endure in front of their closest loved ones on an evening that they expected to be celebrating a long-awaited, and well-deserved, promotion. This insult is not only damaging to the already struggling morale of our police officers, but it will be damaging to recruitment and retention efforts going forward.

The Select Board made several statements that we feel require further clarification so that we can understand why the board felt it necessary to humiliate and insult our members in such a manner.

First and foremost: In regard to the decision to delay promotions being made last minute and in front of family members, Select Board chair Muriel Kramer stated she “tried to get ahead of this [the delay in promotions], so that we wouldn’t have this hard situation, but I was not successful.”

We vehemently disagree with this notion. Any member of the Select Board could have notified our membership at any time before this meeting. Certainly, the board did not come to this decision as they were in the meeting. So, when did they come to this decision? A day prior? A week? A month? Regardless, the courteous and respectful thing to do would be to notify the involved officers before they brought their loved ones to this meeting. Therefore, we ask, specifically, what steps did chair Muriel Kramer take to avoid the humiliation of our members?

The demoralizing effect of this blunder cannot be understated, both on the individual level and on the departmental level. Detective Gregg DeBoer and Officer Matthew Santoro have a combined 31 years of dedicated service to the Town of Hopkinton. They have advanced in their careers and received numerous awards and commendations for their service. They have acted as supervisors on numerous occasions as an “Officer in Charge” when no paid supervisor is working. They took part in a long and strenuous promotional process and were chosen by Chief Bennett to be promoted to the rank of sergeant. Leading up to the night of the meeting, they excitedly prepared. They shined their boots. They pressed their uniforms. They proudly sewed the emblematic sergeant’s stripes onto their shirts. They invited their families and loved ones to attend the promotion. What did they get in return? Disappointment. Embarrassment. Confusion. And above all else, not a single valid or clear explanation as to why.

On a larger scale, our members of the Hopkinton Police Department have not been immune to the challenges that have plagued policing nationwide over the past decade. Recruitment and retention has been a major issue for our department, yet our membership continues to maintain a high level of service to the town. The Town of Hopkinton has always been highly selective in choosing which candidates to hire and promote — rightfully so. The demands of this job require no less. Yet, in recent years, recruitment and retention crises have resulted in officers gaining the ability to be highly selective in where they choose to serve.

The town, therefore, should be striving to be an attractive and supportive environment for officers to work in. By publicly showing their disrespect for our members, the Select Board has chosen to do the exact opposite. In light of this treatment, we ask the Select Board, why should officers come to work for the Town of Hopkinton? Do you truly value us? If you were in our members’ shoes at that meeting, would you continue to work for this town?

Second: The Select Board made several concerning statements about the promotional process of the Hopkinton Police Department. This process is detailed and agreed upon in the signed collective bargaining agreement between the Hopkinton Police Arbitration Association MassCOP Local 254 and the Town of Hopkinton. The promotional process is further described and standardized through the written “Promotional Process Policy” that all of our members have read and signed.

Chair Muriel Kramer stated that she “personally would consider the disciplinary records in my decision to support promotions or not to leadership positions in the Hopkinton Police Department.” As the board knows, disciplinary records are already considered as part of this process as described in the town’s policy. Furthermore, chair Muriel Kramer stated she planned to add a future agenda item to consider “implementing a review process as part of this promotional process.”

Now, it must be made extremely clear that the Hopkinton Police Arbitration Association takes the signed collective bargaining agreement extremely seriously. If the town wishes to revisit agreed upon terms, then the association looks forward to doing so in the next agreement, slated to begin July 1, 2025.

Our members continue to do a difficult, dangerous and often thankless job, day in and day out. Our members continue to perform at a high level despite facing difficulties posed by constant short-staffing, low morale and lack of support. Our members maintain a high level of education and training and truly are experts in the field of policing.

Our members deserve better than this. Our members’ families deserve better than this.

On behalf of the Hopkinton Police Arbitration Association, we eagerly await a better explanation as to why our members and their families were forced to waste their time and be publicly embarrassed instead of courteously being notified privately prior to the Select Board Meeting.

Respectfully,

Cody Normandin 
Vice President
Hopkinton Police Arbitration Association
Massachusetts Coalition of Police Local 254

6 Comments

  1. Ed

    If Ms. Kramer as she stated tried to get ahead of the promotion issue and discussed the matter outside of a posted meeting that’s a violation of the open meeting law.

  2. Brad Hartford

    I believe it would be most prudent to review the officers in more depth. We already have two officers on administrative leave with one of them for sure to cost the taxpayers thousands in a law suit.

    • Lori McBride

      How do we know that there is not already a review process followed before the head of the department makes the recommendation to promote? I do not understand why folks who do not work side by side with police should have the power to affirm or deny a promotion. It is unfair to punish the current police for the actions of those before them – those which are only alleged at this point – no one has been found guilty of anything.

      Reviews may or may not have identified what is alleged in such cases.

      In any event, how this happened is a disgrace.

  3. Wendy Bennett

    THE POLICEMAN’S FIGHT

    I am a policeman,
    And this is my fight.
    As I tuck in my family,
    And kiss them goodnight.
    I take one last look,
    Drawing everything in.
    For I am not sure,
    If I will see them again.

    I put on my uniform,
    And strap on my vest.
    I prepare for the worst,
    And hope for the best.
    I affix my gun belt,
    Make sure all is secure.
    I say one final prayer,
    For St. Michael to hear.

    According to the book of Matthew,
    “Blessed are those who keep the peace.”
    I confront evil every day,
    Just read your local press release.
    For I am a Sheepdog,
    I protect the flock of sheep.
    Against the heinous pack of wolves,
    That harasses them when they sleep.

    I embark on my shift,
    So much work to be done.
    Writing reports and citations,
    Chasing a felon with a gun.
    For each night is different,
    Get to experience something new.
    Have to stay mentally prepared,
    For each crime that I pursue.

    The things I have seen,
    Would surpass your worst nightmare.
    Some things are too horrific,
    And too graphic for me to share.
    The sheer evil that exists,
    Is far from in decline.
    Just be glad there are a select few,
    Who put their lives on the line.

    Because the only thing required,
    For evil in this world to win.
    Is for good men to do nothing,
    Which is a far greater sin.
    Yet this responsibility comes,
    At a great sacrifice.
    There’s a permanent target on my back,
    Some of us pay the ultimate price.

  4. MJ Palmer

    Shame on the the majority of the BoS. All the innuendo’s and hidden meaning behind the reason for stopping the promotion of two very deserving officers blows my mind. The Police Department has hired and lost too many officers to count, Why don’t you look into why! The morale is non-existent, try to fix that one. The hiring process is extensive and long, if these two men passed all the requirements then whats the problem.

  5. Brendan Tedstone

    Although a recent member of the Board of Selectmen, I am strictly speaking as a private citizen. What transpired on Tuesday was amateurish, embarrassing and demeaning. Good on Mary Jo for simply doing the right thing. The agenda is sent to the chair on Thursday for approval. The chair, and chair alone, sets the agenda that is then published and distributed with the info packet to the board on Friday. If Muriel didn’t want this to be on the agenda, she could have excluded it. Now that said, maybe something significant came up between Thursday night and Tuesday night requiring the item to be removed. That happens. What the right thing to do would have been to let Chief Bennett know that the item needs to be tabled so he could let the effected parties know in advance that it was delayed. Maybe something came up that needed to be addressed privately in executive session? Was there an executive session on Tuesday prior to the public meeting? Yes. We will have to wait for the minutes to be released to see if there was a posted agenda item to be discussed and what the discussion was, along with the results of a vote. If there was an exec session agenda item, surely Chief Bennett would have been involved and invited. I thought that when the cameras were rolling in the public meeting room that Chief Bennett was there and not in exec session. The BOS have three (3) direct reports that they are responsible for. The police chief, fire chief and town manager. It’s plainly explained in the town charter that the BOS are not to be part of the day to day operations of the departments. Simply put, this is a direct violation of the charter for the chair to unilaterally (as admitted to) make a decision to hold off on the promotions. When Mrs Ritterbusch asked if it would be on the next meeting’s agenda, Muriel said “No”. There’s a ton of questions here that need to be addressed. My concern is mostly to the fact that there was no professional courtesy given to the potential promoted officers. Det. DeBoer has been with us for 24 years and SRO Santoro has been with us for 7 years. All that had to be done was a heads up given so they could let their families, friends, co-workers and superiors know that the ceremony was not going to happen and have them not show up. I can’t imagine the anger and embarrassment they must have gone through. That said, what do her actions say about the confidence they have for the Chief? The present board lacks balance. That’s obvious. The board needs balance so that events like this don’t happen in the future.

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