EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 15, 2013

Chief seeks to suspend officer without pay

Mayor Lantigua must approve punishment for cop in belly bump case

By Jill Harmacinski
jharmacinski@eagletribune.com

---- — LAWRENCE — Police Chief John Romero will ask Mayor William Lantigua to administer a six months unpaid suspension against a police officer accused of belly bumping a superior officer during an argument.

A clerk magistrate has ruled there’s enough evidence to charge Officer Daron Fraser criminally with assaulting the superior officer.

But, Fraser will not face criminal charges if he stays out of trouble until Sept. 6, 2013, according to an agreement reached yesterday in Lawrence District Court.

Still, police officials say Fraser violated department policies regarding “conduct unbecoming of an officer” and “insubordination.” As a result, Romero said he will ask Mayor Lantigua to suspend Fraser for six months without pay.

Lantigua, the appointing authority, must approve any suspension that exceeds five days.

It’s unclear if Lantigua will approve the suspension. He did not return a phone message yesterday.

On Jan. 27, just three weeks after he returned to work after 29 months off the job, Fraser was accused of assaulting a sergeant in the 90 Lowell St. police station.

Fraser, a 13-year veteran, allegedly belly-bumped the sergeant after an argument over a television being on and whether the door to the police department’s radio room/dispatch area should be closed. He was immediately relieved of duty and placed on paid administrative leave, again, the next day.

When Fraser, 42, returned to work in early January, he was not allowed to carry a firearm due to a domestic assault and battery conviction. Without a weapon, he was assigned to the radio room/dispatch area.

While they await Lantigua’s decision on the six-month suspension, Fraser will return to work. However, he will not be assigned to the dispatch/radio room but another unspecified duty “inside” the police department, Romero said.

In July 2010, Fraser was placed on paid administrative leave after he was arrested and charged with beating his then-girlfriend. A Haverhill jury later convicted Fraser of domestic assault and battery for putting his knee to his girlfriend’s throat and gagging her.

Despite Romero’s requests to fire him, Fraser remained on the city payroll until October 2012 earning more than $150,000 without setting foot in the police department. The officer also continued to accrue sick and vacation time and retirement benefits.

In October 2012, Lantigua adopted a hearing officer’s decision and suspended Fraser for three months without pay. Fraser, who earns $60,000 annually, was also barred from working paid details.

While Lantigua allowed Fraser to return to work in January, Romero would not allow the officer to carry a firearm. The chief pointed to a federal law that prohibits those convicted of domestic assault and battery from carrying guns.

Salem District Court Magistrate Brian Lawlor presided over Fraser’s clerk magistrate’s hearing yesterday in Lawrence District Court. A clerk magistrate from another court was asked to conduct the hearing because it involved a Lawrence police officer.

Fraser’s attorney, Timothy Burke of Needham, could not be reached for comment for this story.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screennname EagleTribJill.