Westford Officer Slammed for Police Fist Fight
WESTFORD -- The Civil Service Commission has upheld the punishment of an officer who was disciplined for a 2016 fist fight between two officers in the Westford Police Department.
The town “has established by a preponderance of the evidence that it had just cause to discipline” Officer Timothy Galvin for his part in the incident, Commissioner Cynthia Ittleman wrote in a decision resulting from a March 14 vote by the commission denying his appeal.
She called Galvin’s conduct “egregious” and wrote that it “clearly violated” department policies, “as well as higher standards to which officers are held, and it constitutes substantial misconduct by impairing the efficiency of public service.”
Galvin, who was suspended for five days as a result of the pre-Thanksgiving fight, sought to have the discipline reversed. Officer Jon Haslam, the other officer involved in the fight, was also suspended for five days but declined to appeal it.
According to the report, a few days before Thanksgiving 2016, Galvin told Officer Robert Musto (named only as Officer M in the report) that Galvin had heard other officers had a problem with Haslam (named only as Officer H) taking Thanksgiving off.
Musto explained to Galvin that Haslam had made an arrangement with another officer months in advance to cover the shift to avoid having an officer ordered in involuntarily to cover his absence, according to the report.
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Musto told Haslam about the conversation he had with Galvin. Afterward, Haslam ran into Galvin in the police station parking lot, explained the situation and repeatedly asked Galvin which officers were upset with him, according to the report.
Galvin declined tell Haslam who the officers were, or that he was aware coverage had been prearranged, according to the report.
A short time later, then-Deputy Chief Walter Shea and a couple sergeants were speaking in the sergeants’ office when they heard Galvin and Haslam arguing in a room across the hall. Shea testified that he saw Galvin and Haslam make chest contact and heard their voices raise. Galvin and Haslam pushed each other before throwing punches, according to the report.
Shea ordered the two sergeants to diffuse the situation. Upon entering the room, the sergeants found Galvin had Haslam pinned to a table and was punching him, according to the report. The two continued to fight despite repeated commands to stop, according to the report.
“Eventually, after considerable physical effort by the three superior officers, (Galvin) and (Haslam) were separated,” the report states.
Once separated, Shea said Galvin “appeared to be laughing at and taunting” Haslam, according to the report. The officers and sergeants suffered only minor injuries and declined medical attention.
In reports they later provided, Galvin and Haslam “asserted that the other was the aggressor and threw the first punch,” the report states. No witnesses saw the first punch.
Then-Capt. Mark Chambers, who is now deputy chief, concluded both officers, armed and in uniform during the alteration, committed violations of rules and regulations, including conduct unbecoming an officer and orders, as well as assault and battery under state law. There was no indication criminal charges were filed.
“The conduct of both officers reflects unfavorably upon themselves and the (Westford Police Department),” Chambers wrote in his report.
The following day, Police Chief Thomas McEnaney met with Galvin and Haslam individually and informed each they would be suspended for five days. Upon learning this, Galvin told McEnaney he would appeal it.
McEnaney summarized the events for Town Manager Jodi Ross in a Nov. 29, 2016 memo that included Haslam’s decision not to appeal and Galvin’s “lengthy discipline history.”
According to the report, since 2012, Galvin has received two verbal warnings, eight written warnings and two written reprimands “in connection with: the vehicle locating system, mobile data computers, insubordination, maintenance of police vehicles, multiple instances of neglect of duty, repeated instances of incompetence, repeated instances involving department property, storage of weapons, and multiple instances involving reporting for duty.”
Ross conducted a hearing on Feb. 10, 2017, and issued a decision three days later affirming Galvin’s suspension, calling the altercation “completely unacceptable and inexcusable.” She noted she and McEnaney had never seen anything like it over his 30 years with the department and her 20-plus years of municipal service in three towns. Ross wrote she was “disturbed” that Galvin seemed to feel he had no responsibility in the altercation.
Galvin filed an appeal on Feb. 16, 2017.
“When asked at the Commission hearing why he did not simply inform (Haslam) that he knew the allegations were wrong when it was clear that (Haslam) was concerned about such allegations, (Galvin) said ‘hindsight is 20/20,’ taking no responsibility for his own actions,” Ittleman wrote in the report. “Further, (Galvin) acknowledged that, at a minimum, he did not deescalate the situation as officers are trained to do.”
The commission reached conclusions similar to the town, she noted, and found modification of the suspension was unwarranted.
McEnaney, Galvin and his attorney, Joseph Kittredge, could not immediately be reached for comment. As of Monday, Galvin is not listed on the Police Department’s online roster.
Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter @alanamelanson.