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January 10, 2014

Rivera shakes up police department

LAWRENCE -- Mayor Daniel Rivera yesterday fired the Police Department’s civilian facilities manager. Today, he will ask a hearing officer to uphold his decision to suspend the pay of former Deputy Chief Melix Bonilla and to fire another cop accused of stealing department money.

Following through on a campaign pledge to reshape the troubled department, Rivera also is considering firing a third officer also accused of stealing from the department by failing to report special details he worked, and a fourth who was stripped of his gun after he was convicted of assaulting his ex-girlfriend last year.

Rivera’s swift actions against the three officers, Bonilla and Jay Jackson, who was in charge of maintaining police buildings and vehicles, suggest a substantially differing management style compared to former Mayor William Lantigua, who kept each of the five on the payroll. Rivera defeated Lantigua by 81 votes in November and took office Jan. 1.

“We found police officers who were in need of disciplinary action and we’re moving to do so,” Rivera said yesterday, although he identified only Bonilla and Jackson by name. “In the process of raising the profile of the department and making Lawrence safer, we’re going to make sure all officers are beyond reproach.”

For Jackson, it was the second police job he lost in a year. Acting Police Chief James Fitzpatrick removed Jackson as chief of the city’s auxiliary police force in September and never disclosed why, although a year earlier Jackson was disciplined after an internal affairs investigation reported he was sexually harassing men in his ranks. Jackson had served on the auxiliary force for 40 years and led it for 26. Auxiliary officers are not paid.

Jackson is a main witness in the pending trial of Deputy Chief Bonilla, who is accused of illegally swapping 13 police vehicles for four Chevrolet Impalas owned by a car dealer connected to Lantigua. Jackson told a grand jury investigating the deal that Bonilla threatened to fire him if he didn’t approve it.

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