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‘The worst of small-town governments’: Latest Stoughton police scandal adds to long history of trouble

“You have to ask yourself: What’s going on there?”

Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
Stoughton Police Department headquarters Stoughton. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

STOUGHTON — The stories are like plot lines pulled from an over-the-top network crime drama. A police chief accused of trying to run down a lieutenant in the Town Hall parking lot. Illicit photos of a deputy chief and his mistress passed among officers and their spouses. A local official so unnerved at the state of his town that he felt compelled to carry a gun — not out of fear of any would-be criminal, but of the local police force itself.

Over the past two decades, the 60-member Stoughton Police Department has been the epitome of dysfunction, besieged by scandals that have rocked this unassuming bedroom community south of Boston but garnered little attention outside I-495. Despite its modest size, the agency has weathered state and federal criminal prosecutions, intense in-fighting that has led to several civil lawsuits, and an FBI probe into public corruption. The troubles are so entrenched that one former Stoughton police chief, upon taking the job, suggested publicly that some of his officers were mentally unfit to carry guns.


“I wouldn’t want to get pulled over by these guys,” said Joseph Saccardo, who previously served as Stoughton’s police chief in the mid-2000s, in a recent interview with the Globe. “It’s incestuous down there. … This is the worst of small-town governments.” Now, the department finds itself once again mired in scandal, this time sparked by the February 2021 death of Sandra Birchmore, a 23-year-old pregnant woman with extensive ties to Stoughton police. Three of Birchmore’s friends have told the Globe that Stoughton police officer Matthew Farwell began having sex with Birchmore when she was 15 and part of a police youth explorers program. If true, those actions would be statutory rape; the age of consent is 16. Farwell, 36, has denied breaking the law.

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