NEWBURYPORT — Mayor Donna Holaday and City Marshal Mark Murray report that an independent review of the facts surrounding the Newburyport Police Department’s response to an assault that occurred during a protest this June has been completed.
The report found that allegations that an officer made an insensitive and sarcastic remark about police de-funding are inconclusive due to conflicting witness accounts and that allegations that the officer failed to respond to the assault in a timely manner are unfounded. The officer’s actions leading up to the arrest of the suspect were consistent with the polices and procedures of the Newburyport Police Department.
The review is being released in full HERE and the exhibits used in the report are being released with only legally mandated retractions and can be downloaded HERE. The documents have been redacted to remove personal information, the disclosure of which may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
The independent review was conducted by John Dristiliaris, principal of John Dristiliaris Consulting and adjunct professor of criminal justice, sociology and leadership at Southern New Hampshire University and at Becker College.
The review utilized reports, statements, previous and new/original interviews, videos, police radio recordings and other materials to outline the facts of the incident and provide the city with recommendations based on those findings for improvement.
“Our City is deeply committed to the well-being and safety of everyone who lives, visits and works here, and it is a relief to be able to share a more complete narrative of this incident, which concerned many in our community,” Mayor Holaday said. “We sought out this review in an effort to provide a transparent, independent assessment of what happened, and we will be seriously considering the recommendations made in this report.”
At a Black Lives Matter protest on June 26 in Market Square, a Byfield woman was allegedly assaulted by a 63-year-old Newburyport man who was arrested by police at the scene and now faces numerous charges.
Concerns were raised on social media following the incident regarding the Newburyport Police Department’s response to the assault.
“We want to reaffirm to everyone in our community: the Newburyport Police Department is absolutely dedicated to protecting the safety and well-being of everyone in our community, and that is a responsibility we are honored to have,” Marshal Murray said. “Our own internal investigation, which has now been verified by the Mayor’s independent review, should show that we should not draw conclusions based on a single, short video clip on social media. The men and women of the Newburyport Police Department are extremely hard-working and dedicated to public safety.”
In his report, Dristiliaris recommends the city pursue the following avenues to improve safety and security as well as to build trust and transparency between the police department and community:
- Repair/replace the traffic cameras that currently exist and are not functional on any traffic signal in the city. Both sets of traffic lights in Market Square are currently equipped with non-operational cameras and have been for some time.
- Add additional security cameras that can be monitored 24/7 by police in and around highly populated centers of city areas to include the business districts and any parking lot areas.
- Equip the police officers with cruiser dashboard cameras and personal body cameras to ensure more complete records of citizen interactions during incidents.
- Incorporate current and up-to-date sensitivity and cultural awareness training throughout the year and through yearly in-service training.
- Continue to maintain and promote the state and national police accreditation practices to include goals and objectives and incorporate them into the day-to-day operation of the Newburyport Police Department.
Dristiliaris, with more than 30 years of public safety/law enforcement and education experience, works with organizations to analyze and review critical incidents/events, goals, objectives, staffing needs and strategic plans to support organizational improvement, efficiency and future growth. He holds a doctorate in leadership studies from Franklin Pierce University and a master’s degree in criminal justice from Anna Maria College.