Sunday, January 24, 2010

5 more Springfield cops under investigation for alleged beating

On the face of it, police officers Jeffrey Asher and Danilo Feliciano couldn't be more different.

Jeffrey Asher has been involved in a number of unsavory incidents, including, most recently, the caught on tape beating of suspect Melvin Jones III.

Officer Feliciano, on the other hand, has helped to stop a woman from jumping out a window, helped save the life of a four year old who'd fallen into a motel swimming pool, and helped save a two year old who had stopped breathing after falling out of his crib.  MassLive.

But Feliciano has now been indicted for assault and battery,  and he and at least four other officers are under criminal and departmental investigation.

Here's what appears to have happened: Feliciano's niece came to the Springfield, MA police station September 24 to file a complaint against her boyfriend, Rolando Rivera, saying he had assaulted her.  She was advised to seek a restraining order and on the next day, officers went to Rivera's apartment to serve the restraining order.  Now, the police department arrest record for Rivera was written by an Officer Pedro Mendez, and he says in his report that Rivera took a swing at him and then a violent struggle ensued, during which he struck Rivera several times with his police radio.  Eventually Rivera was subdued and arrested for assault and battery on a police officer, taken to the station, and then served the restraining order.  Officer Feliciano's name is not mentioned in the report.

On October 4, Rivera filed a complaint against Feliciano and on January 22, the Westfield District Court found probable cause to issue a criminal complaint of assault and battery.  It does not require a very deep reading between the lines of the arrest record and the criminal complaint to get a sense of how the incident unfolded.

Wouldn't it make good sense for an officer with a family member who says she was assaulted NOT to be among the team serving a restraining order to the assaultee?   Mendez says he was unable to call for help on his radio, which he was using in other ways, but he was able to click the radio key open.  Is that why other police showed up?  Or, more likely, were they all there from the beginning?

Meanwhile, Mayor Sarno said last week that he expected to hear back from City Solicitor Ed Pakula with a proposal for a police citizens review with disciplinary powers. I'm reserving judgment,  but I'm already concerned because of the lack of citizen input. Some organizations in this city, including Arise for Social Justice, have been working on the issue of police accountability for a long time.  We never fail to speak up and we are never paid more than lip service.   Will this time be different?

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