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Select Board members respond to criticism after vote to delay police promotions

by | Sep 15, 2023 | Featured: News, News, Police & Fire

In the wake of a surprise 4-1 vote to delay the promotion request for two Hopkinton Police Department officers to the rank of sergeant at the Select Board meeting on Sept. 5, one Select Board member explained his rationale for his decision to the Hopkinton Independent.

In an email, vice chair Shahidul Mannan stated the decision to delay the vote until after the completion of a departmental review put forth by chair Muriel Kramer at last week’s meeting “should have been handled better.”

The 4-1 vote, with Select Board member Mary Jo LaFreniere in opposition, caused an outburst from several audience members and a firestorm of criticism in the days that followed. In a scathing open letter to the Select Board, police union vice president Cody Normandin wrote: “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 reason I agreed with the proposal to move the promotion to another day is simply procedural for me,” Mannan explained. “My understanding is that we are still waiting on some pending reports and assessments, upon which we are better able to discuss and confirm this. This is normal due diligence that happens in any professional organization. I don’t see this as any reflection on the officers or the department.”

Stressed Mannan: “I just want to reiterate how much I admire our police department. I am proud of the Hopkinton Police Department and thankful for their dedication, hard work and high performance in keeping Hopkinton safe.

“I, along with my Select Board colleagues have worked towards supporting our HPD by recently helping restructure the compensation and benefits for our police,” he continued, “and am proud to say that we offer one of, if not the most competitive compensation package to our police officers in the MetroWest region. Our retention and new hires have significantly improved in the last year. With some of the unfortunate recent challenges, our focus is most certainly on making sure the department continues to excel as an example of incredible community policing.”

Those recent challenges include the ongoing court proceedings for former Deputy Chief John “Jay” Porter, who pleaded not guilty to two counts of child rape dating back to when he served as a school resource officer. In May, Sgt. Tim Brennan was placed on administrative leave, but no explanation was provided by the town. Being short-staffed has been an another obstacle the department has faced.

“I hope everyone shows patience and understanding as we go through this process,” stated Mannan. “I am committed to working with my colleagues to keep the HPD strong and, motivated, we will do everything we can to support its excellence.”

Select Board member Amy Ritterbusch declined to comment on the vote. Via email, she stated that due to the state’s Open Meeting Law, “We cannot express our feelings, thoughts or opinions outside of a properly posted public meeting on matters that may come before the Select Board for a future vote.

“I look forward to an upcoming public meeting where we will be able to discuss it openly,” she said.

Ritterbusch pointed out that according to the town charter, “The Select Board is the appointing authority for police officers. This is in contrast to the town manager, who appoints most other town employees and the Select Board just ‘confirms’ the town manager’s appointments.”

She also noted that in July 2022, a police officer was appointed by a 3-2 vote, showing that the Select Board is “not a rubber stamp” for requested promotions, “so it is not always unanimous.” [Editor’s note: The vote referenced actually was three members in favor and two abstentions.]

The Independent reached out to the entire Select Board in order to provide members an opportunity to comment on the situation. Kramer, LaFreniere and Irfan Nasrullah did not respond. The Independent also reached out to HPD Chief Joseph Bennett but did not receive a response.

3 Comments

  1. Alice Cramden

    Rather than rubber stamp it, sounds like the board did their job. I don’t know what the hurry is.

  2. Glen Dawson

    The issue is not whether the Board is “doing their job” correctly. It is the manner in which it was handled. Inquiring minds would love to know if Ms. Kramer bothered to give Chief Bennett a “heads up” about her decision to delay. That way, Chief Bennett could have pulled the request, and spared the officers and their families the embarrassment of having to be humiliated in public. It is nice of Mr. Mannan to state that things could have been handled better, but so far no apology from Ms. Kramer and very little information about her “investigation” and when exactly it will be completed. The lack of information from certain public officials in this town is stunning. Refusing to speak to the media and hiding behind the state’s Open Meeting Law as an excuse to keep the citizens in the dark is troubling. After all, who works for who? So, here is a simple question: “Did Ms. Kramer give Chief Bennett a heads up?” Yes or no? Simple question. How about a straightforward simple answer? Please note that I am writing here as a citizen of Hopkinton, and not in any professional capacity. Thanks.

    • Glen Dawson

      One additional question for the author of this article: I watched the entire Select Board meeting on HCAM, and never saw a formal vote on delaying these promotions. Did I miss something? While there was discussion about the delay, I didn’t see a vote cast on it. Instead, this seems like something that Muriel Kramer came up with on her own. Since she won’t reply to any questions, it is hard to figure out what happened here, other than embarrassing the officers and their families. Why couldn’t Chair Kramer have simply left this item off the meeting agenda, and informed Chief Bennett about the delay, thus avoiding this embarrassing episode?

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