MARBLEHEAD — A total of nine Marblehead police officers and superiors violated department policy for not reporting an incident involving a swastika carved into an officer’s car in 2019, according to a newly released report unveiled this week.
The town’s Board of Selectmen held a meeting Thursday night to discuss the findings of an investigative report into an incident that was 16 months old when the public and department leaders first learned about it late last year. The investigation was conducted by Terence Delehanty, Winthrop’s police chief and the manager/principal of Law Enforcement Application Development Strategies.
The report spans 59 pages and includes notes from conversations with several officers, leading to a long list of findings and eight recommendations — none of which are disciplinary — for the department to consider.
That isn’t to say there won’t be any discipline, however. In a statement issued ahead of the meeting, new police Chief Dennis King and Town Administrator Jason Silva summarized the report’s findings and said internal policies “were not adhered to by officers, to various degrees. After an administrative inquiry by the Chief of these violations is done, a decision will be made on the appropriate remedial measures to take.”
“This incident is an unfortunate chapter in our police department’s history, and it’s one that we must collectively work to understand and address,” King and Silva wrote. “We will do that as one Marblehead community, with input from stakeholders who have been most affected by it, as well as through a thorough review and revision of relevant policies, procedures and training our officers and staff undergo.”
Report: Several officers, superiors broke policy
The following details are from the report: The night of July 1, 2019, Marblehead police Officer Andrew Dimare picked up an empty, flattened can and put it under a windshield wiper on a car belonging to Officer Timothy Tufts. Dimare walked back to the station, and looked back to see Tufts take the can and scratch a swastika in the hood of his car with it. As Dimare walked back, Tufts said, “don’t [expletive removed] with my car.”
Over the span of the following 16 months, the incident was never formally reported up the chain of command.
Within a day or two, Lt. Michael Everett learned of the incident and spoke with Dimare, who insisted he “wanted to deal with it himself and that he was going to buff out the damage.” Everett didn’t report the incident, the report reads, because he “did not want to betray” Dimare’s trust. Over time, others around the department heard about the incident as a rumor but also never reported it.
Ultimately, awareness of the incident reached leadership last November, in part through officer Christopher Gallo, who was on administrative leave at the time for an unrelated incident that Tufts provided a statement for. Gallo has since been exonerated because, as then police Chief Robert Picariello said in March, the swastika incident undermined the credibility of Tufts and therefore impacted any disciplinary or civil service hearing process he was involved in.
Gallo invited Dimare to his home on Nov. 2 to recover something he left in his locker, a setup that was actually “a ruse” to talk about the incident. Dimare confirmed it, leading to Gallo contacting his attorney, who then contacted the town’s labor counsel. At that point, and as several other superiors became involved at about the same time, Dimare spoke to Internal Affairs on Nov. 13, 501 days after the incident occurred.
A pages-long analysis of state laws and town policies then details who did and didn’t violate what rules or laws come into play:
Tufts, “by etching a swastika on Officer Dimare’s car in July 2019, violated the destruction of property statutes” at the state level “and, therefore, violated Marblehead Police Department’s rule” governing criminal conduct.
Because Dimare isn’t Jewish and “the preponderance of evidence indicates that Officer Tufts knew Officer Dimare is not Jewish, and did not perceive him as Jewish,” the incident doesn’t rise to the level of a hate crime. The incident “lacked the required element of bias” and “was not motivated at least in part by a protected category, in this case religion and nationality.”
The following officers are individually described as violating rule 13.5, “Report Rule Violations,” all with varying roles involving a failure to report the incident: Officers Andrew Dimare, Neil Comeau, Nicholas Fratini, Nicholas Michaud, and John Morris; Sgts. Sean Brady and Jason Conrad; and Lts. Michael Everett and Jonathan Lunt.
The department’s decision to not press charges against Tufts doesn’t create a conflict of interest issue because Dimare insisted charges not be filed. The department has an ongoing practice to not place property damage-related charges against suspects when the victims decline to seek charges.
Tufts resigned from the department after being placed on administrative leave for failing to provide a report of the incident as the department was first learning about it last November. He also “ignored repeated requests for an interview” during the report’s investigative process, which was an issue in determining if the incident was a hate crime since the author was “unable to determine what Officer Tufts was definitively thinking when he drew the swastika.”
Public comment appreciates report, not news
Public comment at the meet heavily praised the report and its level of detail. But some attending the meeting were concerned by what they read.
Town resident Liz Weinstein criticized Dimare for his role in deciding to not fully report the incident.
“Officer Dimare made it his choice to not report that and potentially put the community at risk, not knowing the underlying cause of how anybody could use that symbol,” Weinstein said. “I’m really dismayed that he not only did that, but is still a police officer in this town.”
Yael Magen, another resident, said she loves Marblehead and, as a Jew with ties to Israel, “I’ve never felt anybody discriminate against me.”
“We did have a police officer that felt it was OK for him to do that kind of action, says a lot about where we are,” Magen said. “It isn’t enough to train and educate. ... We need accountability, and it’s also time to find those people that are graffiting swastikas and hate speech all over our town.”