Multiple police reports from the towing late Thursday night of illegally parked vehicles in front of a Lawrence nightclub say city Economic Development Director Patrick Blanchette was interfering with police efforts.
The reports, from patrol supervisor Sgt. James Raso and four officers, say Blanchette appeared agitated and angry as he recorded the towing operation in front of Bali's nightclub with his cell phone camera. Some of the reports say Blanchette was intoxicated, refusing orders to get out of the street and back on the sidewalk, and accusing the officers of only towing cars in front of "the mayor's establishments" while ignoring illegal parking outside the Claddagh Pub on St. Patrick's Day.
In Blanchette's version of events (see his letter on this page), nothing of the sort happened. Blanchette says he stopped at the towing scene after leaving a local event. He says he spoke with Sgt. Raso until he felt "intimidated" by the presence of the other police officers. Blanchette says he never mentioned Mayor William Lantigua nor made any derogatory comments toward the police.
Readers asking themselves which version of events to believe might ask themselves a more important question: Why did Blanchette stop at the scene of a routine police operation and interject himself at all?
Blanchette had no business whatsoever stopping at the scene of the towing operation on Essex Street.
Frankly, we're inclined to believe the police version of events, which share common details across five separate reports. Blanchette expects the public to believe he merely stopped to watch and made no comment at all? Preposterous.
Indeed, Blanchette's own description of events falsely characterizes the police reports. Blanchette says the reports fail to mention that he felt "intimidated" by the approach of the other officers at the scene. In fact, four of the five police reports we've posted on our website noted that Blanchette said he felt intimidated.
This is yet another example of the Lantigua administration's interference with the legitimate operations of the Police Department. As with the installation of campaign supporter Melix Bonilla as deputy chief and with the attempt to control the investigation of an alleged hit and run attempt on Lantigua, the political interference with the police has created a toxic atmosphere of hostility and intimidation.
Indeed, some of the officers stated in their reports that Blanchette should have been arrested for his actions at the towing scene. But one officer said he did not arrest Blanchette out of concern for political retribution.
Blanchette's behavior at the towing scene was unprofessional and disruptive. By drawing the attention of police away from their jobs, it put officers and the public at risk.
The interference with police operations by members of the Lantigua administration must stop.