Letters to Town Leaders
Originally sent to the Arlington Town Manager August 14, 2019
Law Offices of Howard Friedman, P.C.
92 State Street, 9th Floor
Boston, MA 02109
August 14, 2019
Adam Chapdelaine, Arlington Town Manager
730 Mass. Ave., Annex
Arlington, MA 02476
Dear Mr. Chapdelaine,
I am writing in response to your August 8, 2019 open letter to the Arlington community regarding Lt. Pedrini’s racist and violent views expressed in an article. I am a civil rights attorney with over forty years of experience. My practice focuses on representing victims of police abuse. I represented the estate of Patrick Barry on a negligence claim against the Town of Arlington. Then Sgt. Pedrini was one of the negligent employees; he failed to follow a policy requiring him to provide a medical evaluation of Mr. Barry. The delay in care resulted in Mr. Barry’s death.
You say Lt. Pedrini’s comments were so problematic that termination of his employment would be appropriate. But, because termination could result in an expensive appeal and Lt. Pedrini might win his job back, you decided to use restorative justice, which is not a punishment at all. Your actions set the standard for the department. If another employee makes similarly racist comments, and you attempt to punish the person by a suspension without pay or demotion, that employee will argue you are treating them differently than Lt. Pedrini. Your fear that you can’t terminate a police officer will become reality.
Your lenient treatment was opposed by former Chief Ryan, the chief at the time of Lt. Pedrini’s comments. Chief Ryan stated that while Lt. Pedrini would say the right things, restorative justice was not likely to change his behavior because his expressed views were “not likely to change in any meaningful way.”
Your effort to save money could backfire. By failing to discipline a lieutenant you have sent a message to other officers that making racist comments and statements about using violence is acceptable and therefore even using violence is acceptable in Arlington. After the Barry incident, then Sgt. Pedrini was made a lieutenant, which tells officers that failure to follow policies will not prevent promotions. You also open the Town treasury to civil rights suits. Plaintiffs will argue the town has a policy of failing to properly discipline police officers, which results in police misconduct.
Finally, it appears in deciding Lt. Pedrini’s discipline you did not consider his history. I was told by Town Counsel that Lt. Pedrini was suspended without pay for his role in Mr. Barry’s death. But this does not appear in the documents released in response to a public records request.
Approving restorative justice for Lt. Pedrini may have seemed like an easy solution to a tough problem. It was a mistake. Comments from people in Arlington show they have noticed that instead of doing what was right, you decided to do what seemed easy.