Members of the town's Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Equity Committee on Monday expressed their displeasure that incidents at the Williamstown Police Department alleged in a federal lawsuit against the town were not investigated at the times that they occurred.

As part of its research into town policies and procedures, the DIRE Committee requested records of internal investigations at the WPD for the last 10 years.

"The response back summarizing was that nothing was classified as internal affairs records within the Williamstown Police Department since Jan. 1, 2010," Andrew Art told his fellow committee members. "There was one investigation that was handled by the Massachusetts State Police that was identified, but the records related to that investigation were not provided to the committee on the grounds that they had not been provided to other requesters. The basis for an exemption [was] the current litigation involving the [Sgt. Scott] McGowan complaint."

The investigation handled by the State Police likely is from 2011, when, according to an allegation in McGowan's lawsuit, a member of the department went to the home of a female resident, repeatedly asked her to have sex with him, exposed himself to her and tried to put her hand on his penis.

IBerkshires.com reports that members of the committee were concerned both by the referral and by the lack of any investigation of other incidents alleged in the lawsuit — the use of a racial epithet in the station by a dispatcher, the posting of a photo of Adolph Hitler in an officer's locker, among others.

Bilal Ansari said.

"What was the time lapse from the initial call of the complaint to the time that the state came in and did their investigation?  This is why there's generally an internal investigation done first, so there's no time lapse. In the case of a sexual assault, time is precious. Time is evidence.

"If the one who is making the complaint says, 'My arm was bruised,' but the state doesn't come in for weeks and the bruises are barely visible, that evidence of the intensity of the bruise is lost. That's why I'm saying, why is it OK that there was no internal investigation?"

Art told the rest of his committee on Monday that the decision to withhold material pertinent to the lawsuit was upheld by the Secretary of State's office and that the decision was tied to the suit, not the nature of the information sought.

 

Art said the lack of evidence of internal investigations at the WPD is an issue that needs to be addressed.

"I think we can do something about making recommendations that those investigations take place and those facts come out."

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