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Pittsfield Police Unions Respond to Allegations Made During Council Meeting

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — As the job of a police officer becomes "more dangerous and thankless each and every day," Igor Greenwald "belittled" the good work officers do, says the local police unions.
Greenwald has been behind an effort to create a Police Oversight Committee and at a recent subcommittee he and others testified about negative interactions with police. Greenwald contends there is "a whole basket of bad apples" in the Police Department and an oversight committee to handle complaints of officer misconduct is needed.
Pittsfield Police Patrolmen Union (International Brotherhood of Police Officers) 447 and Pittsfield Police Superior Officers Union IBPO 447S responded on Thursday saying Greenwald's presentation of the department is misleading and that in nearly every example of misconduct Greenwald presented there had been a disciplinary action.
"Lately there have been some calls in both the press and public meetings regarding the creation of a Police Advisory Committee to oversee the Pittsfield Police Department. Interestingly enough, the loudest and most frequent critic is one man, Mr. Igor Greenwald. But after several attacks against the department by Mr. Greenwald, his comments can no longer go unaddressed," reads a letter penned by patrolman union President Andrew Couture and supervisory union President Matthew Hill.
"To listen to Mr. Greenwald, you'd think that Pittsfield's biggest problems are not the increase in violence, of guns and drugs on the street, a growing homeless problem, or even the city's lack of economic development, but instead the Police Department itself. At a recent meeting of the City Council Committee on Ordinances and Rules, Mr. Greenwald presented a list of negative police matters to support his premise that there is zero accountability within the department. However, in almost every example he cited, the officers involved had received punishment, suspensions, or in egregious cases, were fired and/or criminally charged."
The union says "good deeds" being done by members of the department have been ignored.
"There are many good deeds done by many members of the department each and every day that are not seen in the paper or viewed on social media. Ask an officer why they chose this line of work and the majority will answer, 'To help people.' " the letter reads.
"This, in a job that continues to become more dangerous and thankless each and every day. Mr. Greenwald belittled some of the good work done by officers as 'simple photo opps' and used national statistics to downplay officers shot in the line of duty. The latter is a particular slap in the face as Massachusetts has seen four officers shot since April including the two officers in Falmouth only weeks prior."
The union says the department "is not full of bad apples," as Greenwald had contended and that the City Council should not make a decision without hearing another viewpoint.
"One of the great things about a democracy is the freedom of citizens to speak before their elected officials, bringing forth their questions, concerns and grievances. However, it is also completely irresponsible when elected officials armed with only that one side of a story or event make a public judgment based solely on those single-sided accounts," the union wrote.
The unions contest that Greenwald may have a personal animus against the Police Department. Greenwald had shared his own story in which he felt the department overstepped when it brought his son to the hospital based on a report that he made threats on social media.
"Any real open and honest discussion about policing in the city and the concept of a police advisory committee (in any form)  should involve parties that come to the table unbiased and without personal agendas against the police department which it is becoming increasingly obvious that Mr. Greenwald strongly bears," the union wrote.
In prepared statements, Greenwald was joined by two others at the podium last week sharing the stories in an attempt to argue that an oversight committee would provide an accountability he believes the department is lacking. Greenwald had originally started crafting the idea last fall but said he was cut out of the conversations with Mayor Linda Tyer, Police Chief Michael Wynn, and City Solicitor Richard Dohoney. 
Tyer brought forth the petition earlier this year but Greenwald said it lacked the teeth that such a commission needed. Greenwald wants the group to have the ability to independently investigate complaints of misconduct and recommend a discipline for an officer found of such violation that will stick.
Tyer, however, said discipline is performed through the Civil Service process and therefore such a committee couldn't have that role. Instead, she offered the committee to review the internal affairs reports. Greenwald, however, said that still leaves law enforcement investigating law enforcement, rather than an independent review.
The mayor is sticking with her proposal, feeling it provides an additional level of oversight without overstepping the disciplinary process.
"I do think what we proposed does offer a fair and balanced approach to strengthening relationships with the police and public. We're going to continue to advocate for the proposal we submitted," Tyer said this week when asked about her opinion on the matter moving forward.
"We are more than happy to open up those internal affairs reports and have those conversations. We agree on the idea that it matters."
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Tags: Pittsfield Police,   police advisory,   public unions,   

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