EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

May 19, 2014

Appeal hearing starts for Haverhill police union head

Officer's suspension tied to bee-sting death

HAVERHILL — An arbitration appeal hearing will begin tomorrow for a police officer suspended over an incident involving a man who died from bee stings.

Officer Rick Welch, who is also president of the patrolmen’s union, was suspended without pay for 15 days last year for mishandling a call from an elderly woman who was concerned about her son — a 57-year-old Silsby Farm beekeeper later found dead from bee stings.

Police Chief Alan DeNaro had previously suspended 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, 2013 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 otherwise clean record in rejecting DeNaro’s recommendation to suspend the officer for six months.

Welch appealed to an outside arbitrator, who will hear the city’s case against the officer starting tomorrow. The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. in City Hall.

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, 2013, to report her son did not come home that night and was not answering his cell phone.

While he was working in the public safety dispatch center, Welch took the mother’s call, which was made to the Police Department’s non-emergency line.

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.

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