GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

December 3, 2008

Police panel to probe radio threat

Gloucester department to look into how tape reached TV

By Patrick Anderson

Click here to read the breaking story from December 2 

A Gloucester police lieutenant facing possible disciplinary action for allegedly making a threat captured on police radio last week will be investigated by a regional law enforcement agency before the city places any sanctions on him.

Yesterday, police released a recording of a radio transmission from last Wednesday — apparently broadcast accidentally — that includes audio of a police officer telling a third party about his dislike for an unnamed woman and his intention to hire a man to "bust all her windows."

On Monday, city officials confirmed to the Times that Lt, Michael O'Hanley was the officer being investigated for making the threat while on duty. He apparently was speaking on a cell phone, unaware that his cruiser's radio was transmitting at the time.

Mayor Carolyn Kirk said yesterday that, in addition to the external investigation, the city Police Department has begun looking at how a recording of the threat wound up in the hands of a Boston television station before any investigation into the matter was launched by the city.

According to WBZ, the threat was spurred by a contentious divorce between O'Hanley's son and daughter-in-law, the unnamed woman who was the target of the threat heard on the tape.

In the recording, the officer — in a calm voice — names a man he intends to hire to carry out the damage to the woman's property, although the quality of the recording partially obscures the name.

"When this is all over I will call her and have several words with her and tell her exactly what I think of her," the voice in the recording says. "I am going to call (unintelligible) and hire him to go over there and bust all her windows."

The recording includes a voice, likely a dispatcher, trying to contact O'Hanley through the radio, and ending with a request for an officer to drive to his location and talk to him.

Attempts to reach the daughter-in-law's father yesterday were unsuccessful.

O'Hanley is on a previously scheduled two-week vacation that ends after next week.

Kirk on Monday night vowed a thorough investigation of the incident, followed by disciplinary action that could have come within as little as 24 hours. But yesterday, Kirk said a decision had been made to have the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, a regional police cooperative that shares resources among 47 cities and towns in the state, perform a full investigation of the incident before the city takes any action.

The scope of the investigation will be laid out by police Chief John Beaudette and, at this point, appears to be focused as a personnel and not a criminal matter, Kirk said.

In addition, she said protocol governing internal city personnel matters required the city to hold a hearing on the incident with O'Hanley, meaning no action will be taken until the lieutenant returns to face the accusations.

"It is a due process," Kirk said. "There are certainly some calls for swift action, but we need to make sure we can cross our Ts and dot our Is to make sure it can stand up to a challenge."

Kirk said she found out about the radio transmission Monday morning after her chief of staff, Jim Duggan, received a tip from an unidentified source. Beaudette already knew about O'Hanley's alleged remarks when she contacted him about it, Kirk said.

But the allegations against O'Hanley, as well as the recording, were acquired by a media outlet outside the mayor's office or chief of police, prompting an investigation by Beaudette into who spread the information and police recording.

Attempts to reach O'Hanley by phone Monday and yesterday were unsuccessful. Someone who answered the phone Monday at his house said he was away and would not be back in town for at least a week.

O'Hanley, the lieutenant who leads the midnight to 8 a.m. shift for the Gloucester Patrol Division, is a longtime veteran of the force and has held his current position for three years.

He was promoted to the lieutenant's post by then-Mayor John Bell in what became a controversial appointment in October 2005.

Another officer who was vying for the promotion at the time, Sgt. John McCarthy, sued the city and Police Department in federal court for passing him over for the promotion despite his having scored higher than O'Hanley on a promotional exam.

The suit ended with a $70,000 settlement from the city to McCarthy — and the guarantee that, when the next lieutenant-level vacancy on the force becomes available, McCarthy would be promoted.

Patrick Anderson can be reached at panderson@gloucestertimes.com.

Click here to read the breaking story from December 2