Arlington town officials are amid a process centered on healing the harm spurred by controversial comments penned by a police lieutenant last year, with the hope being to eventually allow the 20-plus-year veteran of the department to return to work.
Lt. Richard Pedrini, who once urged officers to “meet violence with violence” in a police association newsletter column, is undergoing a “restorative justice process,” officials said in a recent statement.
Pedrini met with Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, Acting Police Chief Julie Flaherty, and leaders earlier this month in one “restorative circle,” and the town plans to host a second meeting in March that invites community groups and public comments to add their voices to the dialogue.
“The ultimate goal of this effort is to restore the harm caused by Pedrini, chart a path for his return to work that provides him with an opportunity to learn and grow from the incident and allows the Town to begin to rebuild the trust that was lost as a result of the incident,” officials wrote on the Town of Arlington website on Feb. 21.
Chapdelaine told Boston.com Wednesday it is not guaranteed that Pedrini will be reinstated after the process concludes, but that officials hope to address the hurt he caused and ultimately restore the community’s trust in him and the department at large during the face-to-face meeting.
Pedrini was placed on paid administrative leave in October after several “Man on the Street” columns with strong rhetoric aimed at immigrants, politicians, criminal justice reform, and social justice campaigns he wrote in the Massachusetts Police Association newsletter surfaced online.
A member of the Arlington Police Department since 1996, Pedrini was poised to become the association’s next executive director.
“I am sick and tired of the social justice warriors telling us how to do our jobs,” he wrote in one piece published in “The Sentinel.” “It’s time we forget about ‘restraint,’ ‘measured responses,’ ‘procedural justice,’ ‘de-escalation,’ ‘stigma-reduction,’ and other feel-good BS that is getting our officers killed. Let’s stop lip-synching, please! Let’s meet violence with violence and get the job done.”
Additional statements included Pedrini calling the state’s new criminal justice reform law a “ridiculous piece of shi…I mean legislation,” and criticism of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, among other remarks.
The articles have since been removed from the association’s website.
Pedrini, at the time, told WBUR his columns had “nothing to do with how I conduct myself professionally” and that his writing was simply “tounge-in-cheek political satire” intended only for association members.
Chapdelaine and then-Chief Frederick Ryan swiftly denounced the remarks amid the news reports. Chapdelaine said the sentiment behind the comments was “disturbing.”
Massachusetts Police Association Executive Director James Machado told Boston.com Wednesday that Pedrini, an executive board member, has been on leave from the board. The association is waiting to hear what comes out of the Town of Arlington’s proceedings, he said.
“We’re waiting the outcome of that and we’ll go from there,” he said.
The group anticipates taking up the matter at a meeting next month, according to Machado.
In their statement last week, Arlington officials said Pedrini’s comments “directly undermined the progressive programs championed by the Arlington Police Department and the Town of Arlington,” adding that the decision to take a restorative justice approach was made because Pedrini “expressed enough remorse for harm caused to the Arlington community to make him an appropriate candidate.”
The process has been overseen by Communities for Restorative Justice, Inc., a nonprofit organization made up of town governments and local police departments that works to rebuild trust after a crime takes place, according to its website. The Town of Arlington is a founding member of the group.
“When we reviewed all options available to us to resolve this matter, we felt there was no more effective or more fitting solution than the restorative justice process,” Chapdelaine said in the statement. “Not only does this process reflect the values of the Arlington community by allowing for community input and reconciliation, but it provides the greatest opportunity for a lasting and valuable outcome – healing.
“As always, when faced with a difficult situation, we turn to our trusted partners in the community for guidance,” he continued. “Restorative Justice is a tried and true method – championed by Arlington since its inception – to offer healing to the community when there is a breach.”
In an interview, Chapdelaine said the idea to host the circle initially came from a resident, and then earned the support of town officials.
“I think we saw, or see, a path to an overall better outcome than just pursuing disciplinary proceedings,” he said.
Representatives from different community groups, including the Arlington Human Rights Commission, will be asked to join the second restorative circle, officials said. Written public comments are also being collected online through March 6.
According to Chapdelaine, leaders are eyeing a date sometime in mid to late March.
Additionally, Pedrini is to have “subsequent engagement” with police department staff and will also face “disciplinary measures that acknowledge the seriousness of his actions,” the statement said.
Chapdelaine said those measures do not include the current administrative leave. He could not discuss further details because it is a personnel matter, he said.
“It is our sincere hope that this deeply distressing situation will serve as a teachable moment for all public servants,” Flaherty said in a statement. “The partnerships forged here in Arlington are on full display, proving again that a police department’s potential for success is only as great as its connection to the community and the trust placed in it by its citizens.”