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Wynn: No Other Officers Implicated In Steroid Probe

Staff Reports

Police Chief Michael Wynn

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — No other police personnel are being investigated for using steroids and the one officer admitting to using the drugs has been given "the most severe discipline" that could be imposed, according to Police Chief Michael Wynn.

Wynn addressed "rumor, innuendo and speculation" surrounding the findings of steroid use by Officer David Kirchner with a statement released late Wednesday afternoon.

The response comes nearly three weeks after the allegations, which include state Trooper Daniel Gale of the Russell barracks in Hampden County, became public and a week after Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless released his own statement on the matter.

"Where there is one, there must be others" has been the train of comments and postings in the local blogosphere (PlanetValenti has been ground zero for following the incident.). Wynn says that's not the case but leaves wiggle room in his statement and refers to the investigation as "ongoing":

"Finally, in regard to this matter, there is no indication from the ongoing investigation, that any other member of the Pittsfield Police Department is implicated in this probe. Should that prove to be the case at some point in the future, each of those potential allegations will be handled with the same intensity and thoroughness as this one."

Kirchner, who has been suspended, demoted and removed from the Berkshire County Drug Task Force, admitted to the allegations and accepted responsibility, said Wynn.

"This discipline (suspension coupled with loss of assignment), is the most severe discipline that I can impose as a chief of police, given the nature of the allegations and Officer Kirchner's lack of prior disciplinary findings," the police chief writes.

Wynn said he was "professionally" disappointed in Kirchner's actions and describes him as a "hard-working, dedicated, and proven member" who "accepted difficult and dangerous assignments to protect our community."

Kirchner, he notes, has not been charged with anything and there was limited evidence from the internal probel. The disciplinary actions, the chief states, "it exceeds the punishment that most nonlaw enforcement personnel would receive under similar circumstances."

The allegations apparently arose from a U.S. Postal Service investigation. The IA probe found electronic communications evidence that detailed Kirchner's drug preferences; an unidentified person told investigators that Kirchner had purchased the drugs for personal use.

Wynn's statement is below:


April 6, 2011

For the past several weeks, the Pittsfield Police Department has been the subject of a variety of stories fueled by rumor, innuendo and speculation. Despite the department's efforts to remain above the sensationalism by responding only to those stories and those inquiries that we could address with fact, the speculation has continued. I believe that the men and women of the Pittsfield Police Department deserve to have an official response made for the record.

First, I would like to point out that during this entire course of events, the city and Police Department have responded to every media request as quickly and completely as possible. While the timing and content of some of these releases has drawn criticism, we are constrained by law in what information we can release and when we can release it.

Whenever some members of an organization are cast in an unflattering light, it is easy to paint the entire organization with the same, wide brush. Such gross generalizations are unfortunate and unfair. 

The Pittsfield Police Department consists of approximately 120 hard-working and dedicated professionals, who provide high-quality police services to the city of Pittsfield, every minute of every day and every day of every year. In addition to the high-caliber police services that our personnel provide, we are also extremely involved in the community. Department members regularly give of their own time to improve our community. We are coaches, teachers, mentors, scoutmasters, and board members. We are active in our children's schools and in our churches. We provide the same energy and passion to our off-duty activities as we do to our professional performance.

The public should be assured that sworn officers of the Pittsfield Police are held to an even higher standard than the people they serve and protect. We have one of the most robust Internal Affairs Policies of any local law enforcement agency. Decisions regarding matters of internal discipline are evaluated against several factors including an evaluation of both criminal and civil service law, an analysis of the department's rules and regulations and policies and procedures, cases of prior discipline against the officer and findings for similar cases in the past.

While I am professionally disappointed by the recent actions of Officer David Kirchner, I think that it is important to point out that prior to this incident, Officer Kirchner has enjoyed a reputation as a hard-working, dedicated, and proven member of both the Department and the Berkshire County Drug Task Force. He has consistently accepted difficult and dangerous assignments to protect our community, been commended and decorated for his performance on numerous occasions and is committed to his family and our community.

Immediately upon being informed of the allegations against Officer Kirchner, the department took steps to confront the allegations and contain the impact of the allegations on current operations. Officer Kirchner was relieved of his duties and informed that he was the subject of an administrative investigation. When confronted with the allegations, Officer Kirchner accepted responsibility for his actions, volunteered to accept appropriate discipline, and waived his due process rights to appeal the discipline imposed.

Based on the information provided by the investigating agency, I conferred with members of the command staff and the department's labor attorney and I imposed appropriate discipline on Officer Kirchner.  This discipline (suspension coupled with loss of assignment), is the most severe discipline that I can impose as a chief of police, given the nature of the allegations and Officer Kirchner's lack of prior disciplinary findings.

This punishment was based on the mere allegation of wrong-doing and a limited amount of physical evidence. It exceeds the punishment that most nonlaw enforcement personnel would receive under similar circumstances. Officer Kirchner has not been charged in connection with any criminal investigation, yet has already been administratively disciplined. This certainly does not indicate any preferential treatment for department personnel.

Finally, in regard to this matter, there is no indication from the ongoing investigation, that any other member of the Pittsfield Police Department is implicated in this probe. Should that prove to be the case at some point in the future, each of those potential allegations will be handled with the same intensity and thoroughness as this one.

The men and women of the Pittsfield Police Department continue to provide quality, professional police services to the residents of our city and beyond. We will continue to do so during these trying times and after they are behind us. As the department's chief of police, I stand behind our personnel and their performance. In those rare instances that our people's performance is less than ideal, we have a history of investigating those instances fully and disciplining appropriately. We will continue to do so in each and every case brought to our attention.

Sincerely,

Michael J. Wynn
Chief of Police

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Capeless Statement on Steroid Probe

Staff Reports

DA David F. Capeless

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The articles, rumors and blogs about the investigation into the use of steroids by local law enforcement officers has prompted the district attorney to address the ongoing investigation through a statement released on Tuesday afternoon.

District Attorney David F. Capeless revealed the name of the state trooper implicated in the probe, Daniel Gale, and confirmed that Pittsfield Police Officer David Kirchner was removed as a member of the Berkshire County Drug Task Force.

Indications that the investigation was undertaken by authorities outside the county were confirmed in Capeless' statement. The district attorney says the allegations of steroid use were brought to his attention after a "local police department was contacted by a federal agency." Capeless does not state which police department or which agency (the U.S. Postal Service has told local media that there is an investigation but not into who or what).

The probe was first revealed by postings on the discussion site Topix and on a blog run by former county resident GM Heller and Daniel Valenti's PlanetValenti.com.

The Berkshire Eagle

has followed up with two articles that revealed Kirchner's involvement and that of a than unnamed state trooper from the Russell barracks in Hampden County.

Capeless said he had decided to make the following limited public statement about the investigation:

"Over the past week, the public has been exposed to rumors, in addition to hard information, regarding steroids and their sale and use here in Berkshire County. Ordinarily, it is the firm policy of my office not to confirm ongoing investigations, much less to divulge their specifics, in order to maintain the integrity and effectiveness of our investigative efforts. However, exceptions need to be made when either public safety or public confidence is being jeopardized by a lack of information.

"In this case, I have decided to make a limited public statement, divulging only that information necessary to adequately explain the circumstances, since there remains an ongoing criminal investigation.

"Several weeks ago, a local police department was contacted by a federal agency to alert them that an investigation into the importation of steroids had uncovered deliveries into their town. A joint investigation was undertaken which resulted in the seizure of steroids and the execution of a search warrant. An examination of recovered materials revealed that two law enforcement officers, Pittsfield Police Officer David Kirchner (a member of the Berkshire County Drug Task Force) and state police Sergeant Daniel Gale (then assigned to the Russell barracks in Hampden County), had apparently been the recipients of steroid deliveries. So far, no information has been uncovered which would indicate involvement in anything other than personal use of steroids by these two, or that any other officers were involved. 

"When the information about the two officers was discovered, the local investigating officer, a member of the Berkshire County Drug Task Force, notified his supervisors in the Task Force, who immediately notified me. Since Kirchner was, at the time, a member of the Task Force, it was agreed that we would seek assistance from outside the county in continuing the investigation. State police investigators normally assigned to other units in other jurisdictions were dispatched and are presently engaged in furthering that investigation. Colonel Marian McGovern, the head of the State Police, and Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn were informed of the situation, and each has initiated administrative proceedings while the criminal investigation is underway. Kirchner was immediately removed from the Task Force.

"I take very seriously any allegation that a law enforcement officer has broached the public trust by engaging in criminal activity, and I take just as seriously the reputation of all of the rest of us in law enforcement who honor that trust and continue to guard the public with integrity. No arrests have been made and any decision regarding criminal charges relating to these circumstances will be made with a very clear eye towards those two principles but only upon completion of the ongoing investigation."

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