, Gloucester, MA

October 28, 2013

Editorial: Fiesta K9 report falls far short of needed assurances

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — The after-action report triggered by the chaotic Rogers Street scene on the Saturday night and early Sunday morning of Gloucester’s St. Peter’s Fiesta weekend held potential for answering all sorts of questions regarding the actions of law enforcement personnel — particularly the deputies of the Essex County Sheriff’s Department and their K9 units — that night.

At the every least, it would have been nice if the report – released nearly two months after the initial late-August target date — presented some certainty that such a melee, with muzzled police dogs and deputies confronting patrons of the St. Peter’s Club and the Fiesta Pub, won’t be repeated.

Instead, the report’s findings — that essentially neither city police, the county deputies nor any other enforcement personnel did anything wrong that night — ring incredibly hollow in the face of what we all saw in a short video clip. And it doesn’t provide answers, but instead only raises more questions about the tactics used when police first entered the St. Peter’s club to make an arrests, and wound up ordering all customers out of the club, where they were met with sheriff’s deputies, city police and muzzled but seemingly angry barking deputies’ dogs in the street.

The Fiesta fracas has now become more clouded by a lawsuit filed by a Gloucester native and now Townsend resident who claims that Gloucester police, in the midst of the chaos that night, “maliciously mishandled” her arm by pulling it behind her back and causing a tear in her rotator cuff, requiring costly physical therapy and causing her to lose work hour and earnings in the weeks and months that have followed.

Police Chief Leonard Campanello “vigorously and emphatically denies” all of Jill Fontaine’s claims. But the actual “action” report doesn’t note that confrontation at all. Instead, it focuses in large part on the arrest of a city man captured on the troubling video — and tries to drive home the point that the video was taken out of context.

Perhaps that’s true. And yes, many in the St. Peter’s crowd that night may well have too fired up with alcohol. But the fact remains that none of this would likely have happened if the sheriff’s deputies, especially — playing a rare role in street patrol — didn’t overdo their and their dogs’ welcome. In looking to Fiesta 2014, Chief Campanello and Mayor Carolyn Kirk would do well to assure residents that these aggressive deputies and their overly aggressive K9 units won’t be needed for this festival again.