RANDOLPH - A police officer who was once the department's liaison to the town's immigrant community was fired yesterday for stealing more than $2,000 from Brazilian immigrants he arrested after traffic stops.
Officer Fabiano Estrela was fired by the Board of Selectmen after a special meeting.
Police Chief Paul Porter, who recommended that the officer be fired, said that it was a sad day for the department but that the dismissal was necessary to rebuild the town's trust in the police force.
"It's not a conquest," the chief said. "It's a small step to try to regain trust, not just in the Brazilian community, but the entire immigrant community and the community as a whole."
Estrela, a nine-year veteran of the department, was not at yesterday's meeting. His lawyer, George Hassett of Hanley, Hassett & Fitzsimmons LLC of Quincy, said in a telephone interview after the meeting that his client would appeal the decision.
Selectmen had held a series of administrative hearings in September and October based on Porter's recommendation to fire the officer, who had been on paid administrative leave since February. Porter initiated an internal affairs investigation after receiving complaints last year that an officer was stealing from Brazilian immigrants. Estrela, who is of Brazilian descent and speaks Portuguese, denied the allegations at the public hearings, during which four Brazilian immigrants testified that their money and belongings had been stolen after they were arrested.
Each of them testified that they were pulled over for a traffic violation and arrested because they had no driver's license. Each said that the arresting officer told them to leave their belongings in their car and that when they retrieved their vehicle, their items were gone.
Only two of those testifying identified Estrela as the arresting officer. Town officials said other people made similar accusations, but they did not testify at the hearings.
Estrela was also accused of lying to investigators, particularly about financial problems he had. The town's lawyer, Peter Berry, argued that Estrela needed money because he had filed for bankruptcy in 2004.
Selectmen met in closed session Saturday and voted 3 to 2 to fire Estrela. Selectmen Richard W. Wells, Maureen C. Kenney, and William Alexopoulos voted to adopt the chief's recommendation. Chairman Paul J. Connors and Selectman James F. Burgess Jr. cast the dissenting votes.
Connors said selectmen plan to release the minutes of Saturday's deliberations next week.