LAWRENCE — William Green, a city police officer Mayor Daniel Rivera suspended in December while he considers bringing as many as 16 misconduct charges against him, said Tuesday he will challenge Rivera in September's preliminary election.
Green's candidacy would cap a nine-year history of tweaking mayors and his superiors in YouTube videos and in speeches before the City Council, beginning in July 2008 when he raised his hand at a roll call to question why his patrol was being reassigned to a rookie. He was charged with insubordination and suspended two days.
Since then, he's survived a layoff, six suspensions, a false arrest, two 12-week stress-related leaves and two attempts to fire him. Next month in Haverhill District Court, he's scheduled to face assault charges for allegedly shoving another police officer at headquarters.
“This isn't personal,” Green, 41, said Tuesday about his upcoming challenge to Rivera. “This is not a vendetta. This isn't payback.”
Green is the fourth candidate to enter the race for mayor, joining Rivera, former Mayor William Lantigua and City Councilor Modesto Maldonado.
Two others — Ruben Nieves, a real estate agent who served as president of what became the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, and Jorge Jaime, a foreman in the city Parks Department — said they also may run.
Green, a police officer since 2006, said his campaign would focus on law enforcement issues and he would lean heavily on professionals to help him manage other issues and city departments, including economic development, public works and education. Mayors chair the School Committee, but the committee surrendered its power to a state receiver six years ago.
“The number one thing is, I'm not safer,” Green said about public safety in Lawrence. “On my street, for the first time in nine years, I've had (hypodermic) needles. Someone mistook me for a drug dealer and asked me for drugs in front of my house.”
He described the gun buyback program Rivera announced Tuesday as “an absolute joke” because he said it would bring in mostly weapons that have been laying in drawers unused for years, rather than the guns that arm the drug trade.
Green said he had a “multifaceted plan" to deal with drugs in a city that police describe as a center for New England's drug trade, although he offered only a few specifics. Among them, Green said he would train residents to provide police with intelligence about the drug trade in their neighborhoods so “the drug buyers will tell dealers, 'We don't want to meet you on that street.'”
He described Rivera as an “underachiever” who “meddles” in police affairs.
Rivera declined to comment Tuesday, but referred to Green as a "rogue cop" at a campaign fundraiser last year. He fired Green on Dec. 8 for allegedly failing to report to work more than 14 days in a row, the limit set by state law. Green acknowledged taking time off to protest conditions in the Police Department, but challenged Rivera's count of the days.
Rivera recalled Green on Jan. 3, then put him on administrative leave while he considers bringing as many as 15 other charges against him. They include conduct unbecoming an officer, intimidating a witness, incompetence, insubordination, neglect of duty and disrespecting superior officers. A letter Rivera sent to Green listing the potential charges does not provide details.
Rivera has made the Police Department and public safety a centerpiece of his administration and regularly points to his successes restoring nearly two dozen officers to a department that was decimated by layoffs in 2009 and 2010. In an earlier interview, he said the new hires have allowed police to beef up neighborhood patrols, fortify the department's special units and drive down crime.
In 2013, the last year of Lantigua's term as mayor, there were 2,437 crimes against people and property in the city.
In 2015, Rivera's second year as mayor and the last full year for which data is available, the city reported 2,015 crimes. The drop is 17 percent. Through November 2016, the city reported 1,612 crimes.
The data shows that crimes against property — residential and commercial burglary, larceny and auto theft — dropped 20 percent, to 1,324 overall, between 2013 and 2015.
Crimes against people — rape, murder, robbery and aggravated assault — dropped 11 percent, to 691 overall, when the two years are compared.
Nominating petitions for candidates for mayor and City Council become available April 5. Candidates for mayor need to collect 250 signatures to get on the ballot in the preliminary election, which is Sept. 26.
The candidates who finish first and second will advance to the general election Nov. 7.