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Haverhill

December 7, 2013

Police union head suspended over bee-sting death

HAVERHILL — The patrolman's union president has been suspended for 15 days without pay for mishandling a call from an elderly woman who was concerned about her son — a 57-year-old Silsby Farm beekeeper found dead from bee stings.

Police Chief Alan DeNaro previously suspended Patrolman Rick Welch for five days without pay and recommended that Mayor James Fiorentini suspend the officer without pay for another 175 days. A five-day suspension is the maximum the chief can impose on his own.

In his Dec. 3 ruling, the mayor upheld DeNaro's original five-day suspension and added 10 more for a total of 15 suspension days. Fiorentini said he relied on Welch's clean record in rejecting DeNaro's recommendation to suspend the officer for six months.

The case focuses on Welch's decision not to send a patrol car to check on beekeeper Alan Schwartz, after his mother called police 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 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, Welch sent an email-style message to the patrolman assigned to patrol that part of the city that night. Welch told him to be on the lookout "during his travels" for Schwartz's white Tacoma truck, according to the message.

But Welch did not include other information provided by the caller, such as her son's last known location at the end of the dirt road at the farm. Schwartz was found dead by Marlene Stasinos, a Silsby Farm caretaker, around 8 a.m. six hours after the mother called police.

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