Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

Quincy dad ‘grateful’ as Senate passes three-strike bill for violent felons

Friday, November 11th, 2011

By Andrea AldanaThe Patriot Ledger

BOSTON — Criminals convicted of a third violent crime would be denied parole under a bill unanimously approved by the Senate on Thursday.
The Quincy man who has been fighting for such a law since his 27-year-old daughter was murdered by a habitual offender in 1999 was at the State House to see the vote.

Les Gosule of Quincy, father of murder victim Melissa Gosule, and Chuck Maguire, brother of Jack Maguire, a Woburn police officer shot last December by a habitual offender, were present for the Senate debate. They issued a joint statement Thursday morning urging the Senate to move the bill forward.

Melissa Gosule, a Boston teacher and Randolph native, was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 1999 after she accepted a ride from a passer-by after her car broke down in Bourne. Her killer, Michael Gentile of Halifax, had a record of 22 arrests.

“The members of our family suffered a terrible tragedy. It took me and my family 12 years to get here,” Les Gosule said after the vote. “I am so grateful today. I hope the House does the right thing next week and this brings the bill to the governor’s office.”

Dominic Cinelli, Maguire’s killer, had been paroled despite convictions that led to three concurrent life sentences.

“Had these changes been seen earlier, Dominic Cinelli wouldn’t have been out on the street,” said Sen. Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth.

The list of crimes that would trigger the three-strikes rule covers more than 60 offenses, including armed robbery, murder, manslaughter, rape, kidnapping, mayhem, arson, unlawful possession of an assault weapon and assault and battery causing serious bodily injury.

The bill balances the tough-on-violent-crime attitude with an easing of some mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders, lawmakers said.

Opponents, including prisoner-rights groups and the Massachusetts Bar Association, said the three-strike rule would increase prison crowding and state costs.

Some local senators were opposed to reducing mandatory minimums for certain drug crimes. Hedlund said he had opposed weakening those provisions.

Sen. John F. Keenan, D-Quincy, filed amendments that would have maintained stricter sentencing for high-level drug offenders.

‘‘If they’re not dealing drugs but using, results are better if they get treatment,” he said after the vote. “If they’re dealing, I believe they should be incarcerated for a longer period of time than what has been agreed upon.”

The bill now goes to the House.
Material from the State House News Service was used in this story.

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Bay State officials push to ban ‘bath salts

Friday, November 4th, 2011

By Marjorie NesinCape Cod Times

Nov. 4, 2011

BOSTON — Yarmouth and Attleboro police are working with legislators to criminalize “bath salts,” designer drugs that are being sold legally on store shelves statewide.

State Rep. Randy Hunt, R-Sandwich, said the so-called bath salts are a problem on the Cape because people do not know how dangerous they are.

“Gas stations, head shops, who knows, they might have no clue what bath salts really are, and they’re just amazed that they are able to sell them off the shelves so easily,” Hunt said in a telephone interview.

The drugs look like the product used in baths, coming packaged as small, murky-white crystals. They can also be made to resemble marijuana.

“There’s no practical use for this stuff. I’ve never heard of anyone taking these packages and dumping them into their bathtub. That’s not what they’re for,” Hunt said.

Bath salts are easily accessible, and Hunt said the drug has been sold in stores close to home, such as on Main Street in Hyannis.

Stores can sell the substance because the packages are labeled as “Not for human consumption,” though the substance has no other purpose.

“You can purchase them like mints or gum,” Ann Friedman, an Attleboro business owner, said at a public hearing Thursday at the Statehouse. Friedman’s son was hospitalized for seven weeks with a dangerously high temperature after overdosing on the substance.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the name “bath salts” can refer to a variety of substances, including “amphetamine-like chemicals, such as methylenedioxypyrovalerone, mephedrone and pyrovalerone.”

The institute says such drugs, taken by injection or snorting, act as a brain stimulant and present the danger of addiction and abuse.

Those speaking for the bill warned that bath salts cause violence and paranoia in users. A user may also experience increased blood pressure, dangerously high internal body temperature and long-term brain damage.

In the past month, Yarmouth police have made four separate arrests — a 35-year-old, a 36-year-old and two teenagers — for erratic behavior related to bath salts.

“It’s not just the kid who doesn’t know any better. It’s the drug addicts, too,” Yarmouth’s Deputy Chief of Police Steven Xiarhos said in an interview.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers received 300 calls from agencies reporting overdoses on bath salts last year.

This year, that number has spiked to more than 3,500 cases, said state Rep. George Ross, R-Attleboro, who sponsored the legislation.

“This drug is flying just under the radar and is becoming more of a nightmare every day,” Ross said at the hearing.

Twenty-six states have made bath salts illegal. In South Carolina, the substance is considered a class A drug, putting it in the same category as heroin and cocaine.

The legislation sponsored by Ross would deem bath salts as a class C drug in Massachusetts, in the category of Valium, Vicodin and peyote.

Though other states have taken a harsher stance against the drug, any law is a start, Attleboro Chief of Police Kyle Heagney said.

“We are powerless. We need this legislation. We need the tools to fight this drug,” he said.

Link to the original article.

Abuse victims decry limitations on justice

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

By Marjorie NesinCape Cod Times

Oct. 1, 2011

BOSTON — New legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations on certain sexual abuse crimes could lead to long-awaited justice for victims, including at least nine people who allege they were sexually abused as children at Cape Cod’s Camp Good News.

The legislation sponsored by Rep. Ronald Mariano, D-Quincy, would eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution as well as for civil suits.

In Massachusetts, victims of childhood sexual assault have until their 25th birthdays to report the crimes. Victims of childhood rape have until their 30th birthdays.

Lawyers representing abuse victims say the current statutes are unrealistic.

“I’d say 85 percent or 90 percent of my clients come forward when they’re about 40 years old or older, when the statute’s run out on them,” said Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston attorney who has represented victims of sexual abuse for 16 years. Garabedian represents eight victims who say they were abused at Camp Good News in Forestdale.

Camp Good News was forced to shut down this summer, after the American Camp Association revoked its accreditation following sexual-abuse allegations by Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and nine other campers. Brown’s assertion may have encouraged some victims to come forward, but Garabedian speculates that many more Camp Good News victims have remained silent.

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” he said.

It can take victims a long time to speak because they are often convinced by their accuser to keep it a secret. Shame and guilt may also keep them from speaking out. By the time they are ready to press charges, some victims find themselves unable to take legal measures because of the statute of limitations, said Garabedian.

Garabedian said he has represented clients who were able to get around the statute of limitations, but that it is rare to do so.

Boston attorney Carmen Durso also said it easier to get around the statute if the victim was younger than 13 when abused.

Durso is representing Cheryl Madden, 45, of Daytona Beach, Fla., who has filed a lawsuit in Barnstable Superior Court that alleges a janitor at Camp Good News fondled and raped her repeatedly in a girls bathroom during her three summers at the Christian camp in 1973, 1974 and 1975.

“When (abused) kids become adults and want to do something about their abuse, they find out that the system is stacked against them,” said Durso at a rally sponsored by a group called Fair Fight in front of the Statehouse earlier this week.

At the rally, Heather Connor, 48, described her childhood sexual abuse but said she was denied a trial because of the statute of limitations. A former professional tennis player, she alleges a former coach sexually abused her.

“People say ‘re-traumatizing.’ I just know it was upsetting,” Connor said at the Fair Fight rally about being denied the chance to go to trial.

Victims also testified at a Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill Tuesday. Four people said they had used drugs and alcohol as adults because of the abuse they suffered as children.

“As a survivor of childhood sex abuse “» jobs, relationships, finance, sobriety, all of the trappings of a normal society, were out of reach,” said Robert F. Costello, 50, from Norwood.

Advanced DNA testing can produce new evidence for sexual abuse cases that occurred more than 15 years ago, Patricia Brady, a trauma victims clinician, testified at the hearing.

But even with new technology, a 30-year-old case is a tough case to win, said Jeff Dion, director of the National Crime Victim Bar Association. But victims still deserve a court trial, he said.

If this legislation passes, an accused predator could still use the statute of limitations as a defense in court. The defendant could say that it had been too long since the alleged crime for the court to determine the defendant guilty. The difference is that the statute of limitations would not prevent the case from going to court, said Dion.

Link to the original story.

Quincy lawmaker, Weymouth lawyer keep fighting for child abuse bill

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

By Christian Schiavone and  Andrea AldanaThe Patriot Ledger

 

BOSTON — It’s been nearly a decade since a Weymouth lawyer and a Quincy lawmaker began a campaign to do away with the statute of limitations on sex crimes against children.

On Tuesday, state Rep. Ronald Mariano, D-Quincy, and Carmen Durso, a lawyer who has represented dozens of victims of clergy sex abuse, continued the fight to do away with time limits for prosecution during a hearing of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

Proponents say victims of childhood sex abuse often don’t report it until they are emotionally ready to, and that that can take decades.

Opponents say a total repeal is unrealistic and will result in criminal cases nearly impossible to prove because of the passage of time.

The bill Mariano first filed in 2002 during the height of the clergy sex abuse scandal in Greater Boston has never made it out of committee, despite claims by proponents that most legislators want to vote on it.

Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty, D-Chelsea, a criminal defense lawyer who oversees most crime bills as the head of the Judiciary Committee, “has been blocking the bill,” Durso said.

After the hearing at the State House on Tuesday, O’Flaherty said he has not kept the bill from moving forward.

“There are many members on the committee and you can ask each their opinion,” he said.

O’Flaherty did say he has some problems with the bill. He said statutes of limitations are intended to protect defendants from witness testimony and evidence that is “old and stale.”

David Frank, of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, said it’s difficult to strike a balance between giving victims of sexual abuse time to report it to authorities and making sure witnesses’ testimony is reliable, especially after memories fade over long periods of time.

“It makes it a much fairer process when memories are still fresh,” he said. “When it comes to working out the details on statutes of limitations, it’s very difficult.”

Alleged victims of child sex abuse who testified at Tuesday’s hearing said the time limits for prosecution should be eliminated.

Robert Costello, who said he was abused for eight years by a parish priest in West Roxbury as a child, said sex crimes against children should be treated like murder, for which there is no statute of limitations.

“The term that’s often used to describe the abuse perpetrated against us is ‘soul murder,’” he said. “I know that there is not a statute of limitation on murder. Murder is the taking of a life, the wiping of a childhood, the killing of one’s life potential.”

Mariano, the House majority leader, quipped that when he first agreed to file the bill in 2002, “I didn’t know it would be a career effort.”

Mariano and Durso have had one victory. In 2006, the statute of limitations on prosecutions for sexual abuse of a child was extended from 15 to 27 years. The clock now starts ticking when a report is made or when an alleged victim turns 16.

Mariano said the sticking point with committee members this time around isn’t the repeal of the statute of limitations but other measures in the bill such as the proposed elimination of a $20,000 cap on damages that can be assessed against a charitable organization in a civil suit – so-called “charitable immunity.”

Plaintiffs’ lawyers including Durso and Mitchell Garabedian are in favor of taking the cap off what organizations including the Boston archdiocese can be made to pay for each victim.

Rep. Shauna O’Connell, R-Taunton, said society owes it to victims of childhood sex abuse to allow them to seek justice regardless of how many years have passed.

Link to story

O’Keefe opposes reducing sentences

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

By Marjorie NesinCape Cod Times

September 24, 2011

BOSTON — Barnstable County’s top prosecutor says proposals now before the Legislature that would eliminate some mandatory sentences for drug offenses would hurt crime-fighting efforts.

Abolishing mandatory minimum sentences “would be a major blow to public safety,” District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said in a telephone interview Friday. “The idea that drug trafficking is nonviolent is a false notion.”

A mandatory minimum sentence requires that any criminal who faces charges for a particular crime — in this case, a drug-related crime — must go to prison for a predetermined minimum number of years. The sale of 200 grams of cocaine carries a minimum sentence of 15 to 20 years.

Acting on behalf of Massachusetts Families Against Mandatory Minimums, state Sen. Steven Tolman, D-Brighton, and state Rep. Benjamin Swan, D-Springfield, have filed two bills to repeal all mandatory minimums for drug-related offenses and make drug offenders eligible for parole, work release and earned credit for good conduct.

The bills would also reduce drug-free school zones from 1,000 feet from a school to 100 feet from a school.

Advocates for the bill cite Department of Correction data showing it costs about $46,000 each year to house a state inmate. According to the State Sentencing Commission, there are about 2,000 people serving time under mandatory minimum requirements.

“Taxpayers were paying a lot for us to just sit around, year after year,” former inmate Michelle Collette told a Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday. Collette served seven years for selling drugs. “None of us were getting the help we needed,” she said.

Feet become years

A 1989 law increased sentences for those dealing drugs within 1,000 feet of schools by between two and 15 years. FAMM project director Barbara Dougan said the school zone laws unfairly target urban residents because of the number of school zones in city environments.

About 80 percent of the drug cases that occurred within school zones in 2001 fit the tougher sentencing standards only because there are so many schools in high-poverty, high-drug-dealing areas, according to a study by Boston University’s School of Public Health.

Less than 1 percent of the cases involved sales to minors, according to the study.

Drug dealing within school zones “is not having to do with children,” Dougan said. “Instead what it’s having to do with is where you live. People who happen to live within 1,000 feet of a school are receiving the additional two to 15 years (in prison) for committing drug-related crimes within their homes.”

Statutes work together

But O’Keefe said it is important to review the reasons a law was created before changing the law.

There are two additional laws in place that protect children from involvement in drug deals. One law prohibits people from selling drugs to children and the other prohibits adults from involving children in the sale of drugs.

“Statutes work in combination with each other,” O’Keefe said. “Public safety requires that we very carefully review “¦ and not make changes in the law just to satisfy one individual constituency.”

The Massachusetts District Attorneys Association supports mandatory minimum sentencing in drug cases. A 2010 white paper said: “Minimum mandatory sentences provide penalties that are uniform and predictable, and promote truth in sentencing — the offender actually serves the sentence that is pronounced in court.”

But Gov. Deval Patrick also has proposed a bill that would reduce school zones from 1,000 feet to 100 feet. Patrick’s bill would repeal minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes that do not involve children. If passed, the bill will also make parole and work release available to well-behaved state prisoners who have served half of their sentences.

The bills are now before the Joint Judiciary Committee.

Link to the original story.

Mass. board votes to suspend DiMasi’s pension

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

September 16, 2011

BOSTON — Former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi will no longer receive a state pension, after a unanimous ruling by the state Board of Retirement on Thursday, but his co-defendant’s pension status remains on hold.

(more…)

Quincy Police: Money for combating youth violence isn’t a luxury

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

By Taylor Caroline BiglerThe Patriot Ledger

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BOSTON- Worried about youth violence, Quincy families used to avoid Kinkaid Park and the Fenno Street basketball courts, especially in the summertime, when teens were out of school.

“The foul language alone would drive people off,” Quincy Recreation Director Barry Welch said.

Now, thanks to grants from the Charles E. Shannon Community Safety Initiative, low-key police patrols and teen basketball tournaments have changed the character of the parks, Welch said. Mothers can be seen pushing strollers through the parks as kids play on the swing sets and teenagers shoot hoops on the basketball courts.

Legislators, municipal officials, law enforcement personnel and youths gathered at the State House on Wednesday to lobby for a $2.5 million increase in funding for the grant program. The proposal is sitting on Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk.

The Charles E. Shannon Community Safety Initiative, named after its original sponsor, was enacted in 2006. It provides communities with money for combating youth violence and gang problems.

It currently supports 17 programs in 41 communities.

The fund has shrunk from more than $12 million to $4.4 million since 2009. This year, $291,000 was allocated to nine communities in the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, which includes Quincy.

Quincy first received a Shannon grant four years ago. Since then, its recreation and police departments have worked to make the parks safer and more family-friendly.

In June and July, when youths are more likely to get into trouble, non-uniformed and unarmed Quincy police officers patrol the parks, Welch said. The recreation department organizes basketball competitions between the officers and teens.

“By controlling that group, it creates a better atmosphere for the park. Everyone benefits,” Welch said.

He said only five complaints about violence in the parks were received last summer.

Detective Lt. Patrick Glynn of the police department said the initiative is meant to break down the barriers between law enforcement and youths.

“Everybody feels free to come and speak with the police, and the youth feel free to come and play basketball in a safe environment,” Glynn said.

“People think the money is a luxury, but it’s not. We’re trying to do more with the same amount of money.”

Last week, the state Legislature approved $2.5 million for the Shannon grant program in its proposed supplemental budget for the current fiscal year. The proposal is awaiting action from the governor.

Read more: http://www.patriotledger.com/archive/x1302184864/Quincy-PD-Money-for-combating-youth-violence-isn-t-a-luxury#ixzz1Is4E1wWr

Officials on prison-closure plan: They’re already overcrowded

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

By Johanna KaiserThe Lowell Sun

Published on Jan. 28, 2011 by The Lowell Sun

(Link to article)

BOSTON — State officials are worried about overcrowding, safety and job losses within the state prison system if Gov. Deval Patrick’s plan to close two prisons to balance the state budget moves forward.

Patrick proposed closing two state prisons Wednesday as part of his $30.5 billion spending bill for fiscal 2012. He has not said which facilities will close.

“I absolutely do not support the closings nor do I support this plan,” state Rep. Jennifer Benson, D-Lunenberg, said in a phone interview yesterday. “We have burgeoning prisons as it is.”

Benson doubts that either of the two prisons in her district will close. Benson represents Shirley, where the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, one of two maximum-security prisons in the state, and MCI-Shirley, which shares facilities with it, reside.

Still, Benson said she is “very concerned” about closing any facility in the state because of possible “large scale layoffs,” as well as the strain that could be placed on MCI-Shirley if it is forced to accept prisoners from the closed facilities.

“They are very full, and it has created many problems,” she said.

As of this week, Souza-Baranowski houses 1,259 inmates and MCI-Shirley has 1,465. Just down Route 2, MCI-Concord houses 1,292 inmates, and the Northeastern Correctional Center, also in Concord, is home to 264.

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, said he wants to learn more details about the governor’s proposal before deciding to support or oppose the plan. He said he would be concerned if the plan led to more overcrowding in the prisons that remain open.

“There’s already some pretty significant overcrowding in those prisons now, and I’d be concerned about the safety of correctional officers,” he said.

To help prevent overcrowding in the prisons that remain open, Patrick has proposed giving about 650 non-violent drug offenders early parole, something Eldridge and others said they support.

“Our prisons are overcrowded already,” said State Rep. Cory Atkins, D-Concord. “We have people in there who, by other states’ standards, would be out already.”

Atkins said she is “puzzled” by the governor’s plan to close two prisons, however.

“It would have to be part of a larger plan. It might mean that he needs to expand my prisons to accommodate populations from other facilities,” said Atkins, referring to MCI-Concord and the correctional center.

Atkins does not expect either of these prisons to close.

“Both facilities have been good neighbors. We would consider it a loss, but then again I’m not sure what they would do with the property (if one of the facilities were closed),” she said.

Atkins also expressed concern about employees losing their jobs.

“People might want their facilities to remain open because they provide so much employment to their community,” she said. “Even if those people aren’t in my area, that doesn’t mean they don’t need their jobs.”

Don Siriani, chief of staff for State Sen. Susan Fargo, D-Lincoln, said the senator believes it is unlikely the Concord facilities will close because the town has “a very stable and very solid relationship with the state prisons.”

Massachusetts Most Violent? Crime Experts Downplay Report

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

By Sarah Tann

BOSTON – Is Massachusetts the most violent state in the Northeast?

According to a report by the Massachusetts Health Council the state exceeds even New York and New Jersey in per capita violence. The November report by the non-profit coalition of government, advocacy and business groups was picked up by several state newspapers and news sites.

But, crime statistics experts say the report was more of an attention grabber than an accurate depiction of the criminal landscape in the commonwealth.

“Ranking is always problematic,” says Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox. “States differ geographically, so it’s hard to compare Massachusetts to states like New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, where a majority of the state is rural. You have to ask, ‘What are you comparing this to.’”

The health council chose to look at four categories of violent crime collected by the FBI: murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, which the FBI defines as an unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury.

It said approximately 30,000 violent crimes were committed in Massachusetts in 2009 or 457 violent crimes per 100,000 people. New York and Pennsylvania trailed the Bay State, with 385 and 381 violent crimes respectively. Maine reported the least amount of violent crimes at 120.

The report seemed validated by news reports of murder and mayhem in the Bay State, including the shooting deaths of three people in a Boston pizza shop and September’s shooting in Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood that left four people dead, including a 2-year-old child.

But are all violent crimes equal? Although it led he states in aggravated assault, Massachusetts trailed behind several of the Northeast states in the three other categories.

Statistics from the FBI indicate that Massachusetts had 20,836 aggravated assaults or 316 per 100,000 people, the highest figure of all Northeastern states. New York had the next highest figure with 224 while Maine had the least, with 59.

“Aggravated assault doesn’t even have to result in injury. It’s a very nebulous category,” Fox said.

With 172 homicides, or 2.6 per 100,000 people, Massachusetts was sixth out of the nine Northeast states in murder rates – only Vermont and New Hampshire had lower numbers. Pennsylvania led the category with 5.2 murders per 100,000 followed by New York with 4 and New Jersey with 3.7.

The commonwealth also saw 25.8 forcible rapes per 100,000 and 112.6 robberies per 100,000—figures less than the national average. New Hampshire had the highest ratio of forcible rapes in 2009 with 30.2 per 100,000 while New Jersey had the lowest with 12.

Fox also points to the fact that among the nine northeastern states in the report, Massachusetts has the second highest percentage of population living in an urbanized area, after New Jersey. Fox says that any attempt to compare Massachusetts to another state without taking this into account would offer an inaccurate analysis of the Bay State.

“The reason we rank number one in violent crimes is because we rank number one in the least severe of those crimes,” Fox said.

On its website, the FBI also cautions against using their statistics to compile a ranking system among states, providing a caveat about rankings to viewers of their website.

“These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region,” the site warns. “Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents.”

Susan Servais, executive director of the Massachusetts Health Council, says the numbers speak for themselves.

“The truth of the matter is we selected four crimes that are very violent and when you look at the numbers per capita, we certainly have the most violent crimes in the Northeast,” Servais said.  “We’re not trying to be philosophers; we’re just looking at data.”

Servais says the report was aimed at state lawmakers in hopes of convincing them to restore funding for violence prevention coalitions involving police, churches and schools working with at-risk individuals.

Servais ties the high ranking in violent crimes to cutbacks in funding for these coalitions.

The report also recommends tougher gun laws and better street lighting as preventative crime measures.

“Prevention absolutely works,” said Servais. “If you work with at-risk kids and help them navigate through their life, it will decrease violence.”

But James Byrne, a criminal justice professor at University of Massachusetts, Lowell, disagrees with Servais’s argument for more prevention programs.

“To link the reduction in specific prevention programs to the amount of crime in Massachusetts is a stretch,” said Byrne.

In fact, Byrne notes, overall violent crime rates have decreased in recent years in Massachusetts.  According to the state Office of Public Safety and Security, violent crime peaked in the mid 1990’s with the highest volume of violent crimes reported at 40,239. The commonwealth’s 2009 violent crime rate of 30,136 was down 25 percent from the all-time high.

Byrne says that if one were to follow the logic connecting reduced violence to funded prevention programs,  it could be argued that since Massachusetts’ crime rate has been dropping, funding can be reduced and allocated elsewhere.

Byrne describes the report as “much to do about nothing.”

“It’s your classic approach to gain public attention to get more resources,” he said. “I’m not surprised that it got the media to highlight an issue that is a false issue.”

2 Westminster cops earn Hanna Awards

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

By Sarah FavotSentinel & Enterprise

11/19/2010

BOSTON — Two Westminster police officers honored Thursday for their actions in a shootout with a suspect dedicated their award to their families who support them and worry about them when they are on duty.

Sgt. Edward Robbins and Officer Ralph LeBlanc, who have been partners for 15 years, were among 37 officers to receive medals of honor from Gov. Deval Patrick and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray at a Statehouse ceremony.

“I’m really proud that I was able to have my daughter come today,” said LeBlanc, who says his 7-year-old daughter, Cailey, worries about him every day he leaves the house. “She gives me hugs and kisses when I go off to work every day.”

Robbins and LeBlanc were honored for their actions during an incident in October 2009. The pair were checking out a report that an armed man had threatened his wife when the suspect opened fire on them. The man died from gunshot wounds to the leg when Robbins returned fire.

Both of the officers said their training prepared them for the dangerous incident.

“When you’re put in that situation, the training kicks in,” Robbins said. “We’re not happy that someone was killed, but we’re happy that we’re here. What needed to be done was done.”

The officers are reluctant to take on the hero’s mantel, saying their actions were just part of their duties.

“We were just doing the job,” Robbins said. “It’s what we do every day. We don’t need to come here to get an award. The award is more for my family.”

Westminster Police Chief Salvatore Albert, who attended the ceremony, said he is proud of Robbins and LeBlanc.

“Everything they did was textbook,” Albert said. “They did everything that they were supposed to do according to their training.”

Albert also described Robbins and LeBlanc as officers who love their job and are happy to come to work every day.

Speaking at the ceremony, Patrick and Murray noted the importance of the support that police officers have from their family members.

“I also want to acknowledge, in the same spirit of the lieutenant governor, the families of the honorees and families of all of those who serve in public-safety roles here in the commonwealth,” Patrick said. “You go into service every day with your loved ones. You worry about them and think about them. We appreciate and honor you and have you very much in mind, not just on the day of this ceremony, but every day.”

The 27th annual awards ceremony is held in honor of former state Trooper George L. Hanna Jr., who was killed during a routine motor-vehicle stop in 1983. Hanna’s daughters, Deborah Hanna and Kimberly Wittenberg, presented the awards along with Patrick and Murray.

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