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Medfield police union files unfair labor suit, fires back at sleeping allegations

The union blames the police chief for not doing enough to address understaffing, which it says has caused officers to be exhausted.

The Medfield Police Department Medfield Police Department

The union representing Medfield police officers is firing back at several town officials after a statement from the town’s Select Board claimed an investigation found serious officer misconduct.

The statement, which was released on Tuesday, alleges that not only were officers sleeping on the job and avoiding patrols during the night shift but that the police union was defending this conduct.

The union released a detailed statement on the matter Wednesday, which paints a different picture of the situation at the Medfield Police Department.

According to the Medfield Police League, Massachusetts Coalition of Police, Local 257, Police Chief Michelle Guerette has let staffing levels at the department fall so low that officers have been forced into double shifts multiple times a week, which has exhausted them, put them in danger, and decreased the effectiveness of patrols.

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The union went on to say that this has been a problem for years, that Guerette has been aware of the problem and the officers’ conduct since she became chief in 2019, and that she unfairly tried to fire two officers and targeted union officials.

It also accused Guerette, the independent investigator hired by the Town to look into allegations of officer misconduct, and the town’s attorney of bullying police department employees.

The union said it has now filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations due to these ongoing issues.

“The members of the Medfield Police League…are committed to providing the best possible police services to the citizens of Medfield. The Chief of Police has compromised our ability to fulfill this commitment,” the union wrote in its statement.

The union said Guerette condoned the night shift’s “reactive policing,” which the Select Board described in its statement as officers not going on regular active patrols, up until the investigation into officer misconduct began in March 2022.

“Instead of taking proactive measures to improve the situation, she initiated inappropriate investigations targeting union officials who spoke out about the problem. She is currently attempting to terminate two dedicated officers without progressive discipline or prior warning,” the union wrote.

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“The officers of the Medfield Police Department have lost trust in the Chief’s ability to manage this department.”

According to the union, the staffing situation at the police department is dire. Since Guerette became chief, it said, 12 officers and six dispatchers have resigned.

Currently, the union said, the department has 12 officers, two of whom are out on administrative leave because of the investigation, and two dispatchers. Minimum staffing requires eight officers and three dispatchers per day to operate, it said.

“This is not simply a temporary staffing shortage. This is a public safety crisis,” the union wrote.

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The union made further allegations against the police chief and other town officials in its statement.

Firstly, it said, the town administrator, Select Board, and the human resources director have made no effort to interview employees leaving the department, nor have they tried to speak to union officials or members about the high turnover rate in the department.

Next, it said, the police chief targeted officers who were performing protected union activity by “weaponizing the department’s video system to conduct improper surveillance.”

“The town investigator, attorney, and police chief have coerced, bullied, and intimidated employees,” the union wrote.

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The union ended its statement by emphasizing that Medfield police officers remain committed to their sworn duty to protect and serve the community.

“Medfield citizens can be assured that regardless of the town and police chief’s inability to provide effective leadership, our officers will continue to provide quality service and protection to all people in a fair and just community-based approach,” it wrote.

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