Inquiries preceded Hanson police chief’s departure
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HANSON — Before he resigned to avoid likely dismissal, Hanson’s police chief, Edward Savage, was being investigated on a raft of allegations — including charges that he tried to quash a high school bullying complaint and inflated the small town’s crime statistics for seven years to boost his image.
The investigation, details of which were released by town officials on Wednesday, also looked into accusations that Savage used his officers to do college coursework he needed to get additional pay from the town, and allowed a local mechanic to work at the police station on private cars, including one owned by the chief.
Savage resigned in October after 10 years as chief and 26 years on the force, and selectmen agreed to stop dismissal proceedings against him. Savage, whose annual salary was $113,431, received about $15,000 in unused vacation, personal leave, and holiday pay, officials said.
Neither Savage nor his attorney could be reached for comment.
Hanson selectmen initiated the investigation in June after receiving an anonymous letter that asked the board to investigate. The board hired APD Management of Tewksbury to look into eight specific accusations.
The most serious involved falsifying crime statistics in the town’s annual reports from 2005 through 2011, showing an increase in crime when it actually was going down in the community of about 10,200. “In truth, the Hanson Police Department’s arrests and citations significantly decreased” in that period, APD’s report said.
For example, Savage reported that in 2011, police “responded and acted on 16,847 calls” when police actually made 111 arrests and issued 338 citations that year.
“There is no question that Chief Savage provided inaccurate and misleading information – statistics and narrative – for the Annual Town Report for all seven years from 2005-2011,” the report said.
“Chief Savage had a motive to provide the inflated statistics as it made the Department – and him as chief by extension – look good in the eyes of the public,” it said.
The report was less definitive on the allegation that Savage used his influence to thwart a bullying complaint brought by a Whitman-Hanson Regional High School student.
The investigation concluded that Savage used “poor judgment” and gave “an appearance of impropriety” by getting directly involved in the case, because the accused bullies included the sons of a man Savage described as a good friend. But the report said there was “insufficient evidence to prove” that Savage’s involvement in the case led to the decision not to pursue it.
All the names in the report were redacted; however, the letter to Savage informing him of the allegation said the students accused of bullying included “children of a local police chief.”
The report recommended that the town ask the Plymouth district attorney’s office to review the case because of the chief’s actions and because the parent of the victim was not satisfied with the handling and resolution of the incident.
The report also found that Savage solicited Hanson police officers to do coursework for him that he needed to get a college degree, which would boost his pay. In one instance, Savage told an officer that he got an A-minus on a report written for the chief, the report said.
The report also found that Savage allowed a private individual to work on cars at the police station, including one owned by the chief.
According to the report, the chief had a remote starter installed in his wife’s car as a Christmas gift in 2010.
“Chief Savage knew or should have known that this practice was not appropriate,” the report said. “By his actions, Chief Savage engaged in conduct unbecoming a police chief. He also violated the Massachusetts Conflict of Interest law.”
The report said the chief was untruthful when he said he did not intentionally inflate the crime activity in town reports.
The investigation did not find evidence to prove an accusation that Savage had a police officer work at his home and gave him unearned benefits. Nor did the report substantiate an allegation that Savage illegally issued firearm permits.
Similarly, the report said an accusation that Savage was often away from the police department during regular working hours “cannot be proven or disproven with the information available, due to the provisions in Chief Savage’s contract, the nature of the job, and lack of accountability in any type of time record-keeping system.”
Selectmen suspended Savage in September and hired an interim police chief from outside the 21-member force until they can find a permanent replacement.
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.