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.
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thats all a bunch of bull,if a regular citizen were caught with an illegal substaince they would be criminaly charged and prosecuted to the fullest and how can you say there was lack of physical evibence,transporting illegal substances through the united states post-office isnt evidence? gee our systems really fair,but i guess if your a pittsfield police officer you can do what you want,always been ,always will.
On PlanetValenti, journalist Dan Valenti writes:
“A sexual assault investigator (with the Pittsfield Police Department) was found guilty in an internal probe of having sex and an ongoing affair with a victim he was interviewing.”
A source has confirmed to Berkshire Blog the name of that PPD sexual assault investigator to whom Mr. Valenti refers.
There is no need to post it here on Topix or on Berkshire Blog at this time.
The question, though, that this matter raises is why is this person still employed by the city?
Were this to have occurred in the Pittsfield public school system by a counselor there, what do you suppose would have been the outcome?
Likewise, had this occurred in the private sector by a registered physician or therapist assigned to deal with sexual assault victims, how would the system have handled the matter?
Seems to me that not only would the perpetrator in all the examples posed above be fired from his position of responsibility, but that the perp would lose his license to practice, and very likely be required to pay civil damages and fines, if not also be subject to criminal prosecution.
(Not to mention that our good buddies at The Berkshire Eagle would drag the fellow’s name through the mud and readers would learn everything there was to know about every aspect of the guy’s background — Thank you, Andrew Mick, Tim Farkas, and Clarence Fanto!)
Yet, in this case, that individual is still employed by PPD, collects his weekly paycheck, pays his union dues, and is otherwise on track to get his pension and medical benefits when finally he retires, all courtesy of the city’s taxpayers.
Would that be the outcome for the school counselor, physician, or therapist mentioned above?
So why is this public employee receiving special treatment that would certainly not be accorded to anyone else who had done the same thing?