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A 2014 incident involving a dispatcher using a racial slur in the police station helped fuel widespread outrage and protests against the Williamstown Police Department, including this protest in August.
Updated November 12, 2020 04:51PM

Williamstown's 'Dispatcher D' Resigns Following Investigation into Facebook Posts

By Stephen DravisIBerkshires.com
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Updated at 5 p.m. to report the dispatcher in question is the same person involved in the use of a racial slur at the police department in 2014.
 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A Williamstown Police Department part-time dispatcher who shared racist posts on social media no longer is employed by the town, the town manager announced on Thursday.
 
Town Manager Jason Hoch late Thursday afternoon confirmed it was the same dispatcher who is accused in a federal lawsuit of using a racial slur in the department.
 
The employee tendered his resignation following an investigation by Police Chief Kyle Johnson, according to a statement from Town Manager Jason Hoch. 
 
"Chief Johnson determined that there were posts that were inconsistent with the department’s rules for professional conduct and responsibilities and conduct unbecoming an officer, " Hoch wrote in a three-paragraph statement.
 
By rules of the WPD, the term "officer" applies to both sworn officers and dispatchers, Hoch explained. 
 
The Facebook posts came to the attention of Johnson and Hoch on Saturday, Nov. 7. And they discussed them at Monday’s Select Board meeting.
 
"[Thursday] morning, the Chief advised the employee that he was submitting his report to me with a recommendation that the employee be removed from service as a Dispatcher with immediate effect," Hoch wrote. "The employee subsequently acknowledged the behavior and offered his resignation which I accepted."
 
On Monday, Johnson described the Facebook posts as "inappropriate." Hoch said they appeared to "reflect a racial bias."
 
As he did on Monday, Hoch in his Thursday statement noted that the posts in question did not appear to present a direct threat to any individual Williamstown residents.
 
But they still were of a nature that the town and WPD were not prepared to tolerate.
 
"While none of the posts identified appear to have represented an intentional threat to our community, they were inconsistent with the values we wish to demonstrate in Town government today," Hoch said. "Our employees have been reminded of the expectations for our conduct extend not only within the workplace, but also in our lives in the community both physically and virtually."
 
In August, a lawsuit was filed against the town, Hoch an Johnson by Sgt. Scott McGowan, who is seeking unspecified damages for discrimination and retaliation for his activities as a whistleblower.
 
McGowan's lawsuit lists a litany of allegations of racist actions and sexual misconduct tied to the department, claiming that he repeatedly "blew the whistle" on said offenses. One incident that has been the focus of much criticism in the weeks following the filing occurred in 2014.
 
That year, when the police were still at their old station in Town Hall on North Street, a Black student from Williams College was receiving a tour of the station when, "Dispatcher D, who is white, entered the station for his shift and shouted a racial slur (the N-word) to other Department members," according to the suit.
 
The same incident was referenced in McGowan's complaint to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, which preceded the lawsuit.
 
In the Williamstown's response to McGowan's MCAD complaint, the town acknowledged the incident occurred but denied McGowan was a whistleblower in that or other instances.
 
"When the [2014] incident was brought to Chief Johnson's attention, the dispatcher who made the offensive remark was appropriately disciplined," the town's response reads. "The Respondents have no recollection of the Complainant recommending that the dispatcher be terminated, or that the Complainant had any involvement in any discussions about how the incident should be handled other than reporting it to Chief Johnson."

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Williamstown Sees Unusually High Turnout in Local Election

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — There were a lot of big winners in Tuesday's town election.
 
But the biggest of all appears to have been democracy.
 
On Wednesday morning, Town Clerk Nicole Pedercini announced that the total turnout for the local election was 1,823, or 38 percent of the town's registered voters.
 
That is modest compared to the 3,600 local ballots cast in last fall's presidential election, but it swamps participation numbers for a typical spring vote.
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