Williamstown PD Officers Suspended Without Pay
The Williamstown Police Department officers who illegally accessed a state database to seek information on town residents were suspended from duty without pay.
This month's revelation of the CJIS violations brought a whole new set of questions from the public.
Iberkshires.com reports that was one of the corrective actions that acting Chief Michael Ziemba outlined Monday in a report to the Select Board about the incident.
"Swift disciplinary actions have already been taken in the form of suspension from duty without pay for these offenders, and all officers, including myself, have been required to complete retraining in the requirements for accessing the [Criminal Justice Information System], In addition, security requirements for access and login controls for the CJIS system have been tightened, and the logs of all CJIS queries being reviewed regularly by myself. I'm disappointed in the department members to say the least, Those who continue to misstep will be subject to progressive discipline, up to and including dismissal."
Ziemba said he looks forward to the outcome of a review by the CJIS administrators, who will look at his internal investigation and provide feedback on the corrective actions he took.
In answer to questions from the public and the Select Board, Ziemba said there are "multiple protocols" at the local and state level for accessing data in the CJIS, including the Registry of Motor Vehicles data that was illegally viewed by members of the WPD.
"Those protocols were broken, That's why we're at where we're at. From here forward, this is obviously an area we have to monitor. All queries made here are tracked here but also in the CJIS database throughout the state."
Ziemba reiterated that he has found no evidence that any of the information illegally accessed was disseminated by the offending personnel. Select Board member Jeffrey Thomas asked Ziemba if his personnel gave any explanation for their violation of the CJIS protocols.
"Names, faces, addresses, to familiarize themselves with certain persons, some vocal critics [of the WPD], some not," All indications were that it was not for malicious intent. It was simply to recognize and familiarize themselves. They indicated that the issues in town the last several months caused distress, and they were unfamiliar with some of the people [debating those issues]."
Ziemba declined to say how the violations came to his attention, saying he wants to let the CJIS investigation run its course first. He said he looked back over a period of six months for searches that appeared to be outside the course of law enforcement duties.
And he reiterated under questioning from the board that termination would be a possible consequence for repeated misuse of the CJIS database.
"We have to follow the protocols as far as progressive discipline, but I think we've set the standard here for what we expect and made it plainly obvious, So if there were any missteps past this, I don't know why we wouldn't seek termination. We've laid it all out there. There are no second chances as far as this goes. We can do better, and we will do better."
Later in the meeting, the Select Board voted to add the CJIS infractions the scope of work for arising out of last summer's federal lawsuit against the town.
Andy Hogeland also asked and received the assent of the board to add to Judy Levenson, the Brookline attorney the board hired to do an independent investigation of allegations charge the investigation of a complaint against Sgt. Scott McGowan led to his paid administrative leave this month. Hogeland said he would not be surprised if the investigation costs over $30,000
Members of the Select Board last week heard from numerous residents in a series of listening sessions about the anger and fear caused by news of the illegal searches, which reportedly involved 20 residents' information.