EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

October 6, 2013

Officer: Punishment is political payback

Union president says mayor, chief are exploiting man's bee-sting death

HAVERHILL — The president of the patrolmen’s union is accusing Mayor James Fiorentini and police Chief Alan DeNaro of exploiting the death of a man by bee stings to get political payback against the officer.

Officer Rick Welch, a nine-year patrolman and the union president, is facing the potential of a long unpaid suspension for allegedly mishandling a missing person report in which the subject of the report — a 57-year-old Silsby Farm bee keeper — was later found dead at the farm.

“I am truly sympathetic to those who suffered the unexpected loss of their family member in this incident, it is tragic and heartbreaking,” Welch said in a written statement following his disciplinary hearing last week.

“However, I find it reprehensible that the mayor and chief would exploit such a tragedy just to pressure a union official and cause such extreme duress to me, my family, and my coworkers,’’ Welch’s statement continues. “I only hope this matter will bring to the surface many of the problems within our city’s public safety departments.”

DeNaro has recommended the mayor suspend Welch for six months without pay for not sending a patrol car to check on Alan Schwartz, after Schwartz’s mother called the police station at 2 a.m. on June 11 to report that her son did not come home that night and was not answering his cell phone.

Welch took the mother’s phone call, which was made to the Police Department’s non-emergency line, while he was working in the public safety dispatch center. Police said Ina Schwartz told Welch that her son was working with bees, that she feared for his safety, and that she wanted Welch to send an officer to check on him.

Instead of dispatching a cruiser to the farm on Salem Street in Bradford, however, Welch sent an email-style message to the patrolman assigned to cover that part of the city that night. Welch asked the patrolman to be on the lookout “during his travels” for Schwartz’s white Tacoma truck, according to the message.

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