Phil fills Tacoma’s need
Former Milwaukee Police Chief Philip Arreola was sworn in Oct. 1 as chief of the Tacoma, Wash., Police Department, succeeding Ray Fjetland, who had retired in January 1995 after more than 25 years to head the Tacoma-Pierce County YMCA.
Arreola, 56, took command of the department from Assistant Chief Ken Monner, who has served as interim chief since Fjetland’s departure. Monner said he plans to stay with the department for at least several months to help Arreola with the transition.
City Manager Ray E. Corpuz Jr. said Arreola was chosen from a group of nine finalists, including three high-ranking Tacoma police officials. “I wanted a top-notch leader, and I got a top-notch leader,” Corpuz said Aug. 16. “I’m confident that Chief Arreola will provide the leadership needed within our Police Department and enhance the department’s popular community-oriented policing program.”
Corpuz added that he was “impressed by [Arreola’s] poise and professionalism, his abilities as a coalition-builder and his enthusiasm for working in Tacoma.” He said the Chief’s efforts to confront gangs and domestic violence in Milwaukee also were factors in his selection.
A 36-year law enforcement veteran, Arreola started his career as a cadet with the Detroit Police Department. In 1985, he earned a law degree and became a member of the Michigan bar, making him one of the few lawyers working as a police executive, and one of the few police chiefs with a terminal college degree. Two years later, Arreola left Detroit to become police chief of the Port Huron, Mich., Police Department.
Arreola was named Milwaukee Police Chief in 1989. In July 1991, the gruesome crimes of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who later was convicted of killing and dismembering 16 Milwaukee boys and men, came to light. Two months earlier, two police officers had encountered a naked and bleeding 14-year-old boy who had escaped from Dahmer’s apartment, and they returned him to Dahmer. The youth’s remains were later found strewn around Dahmer’s home.
Police determined that Dahmer collected five more victims in the two months between the incident and his arrest.
The incident rocked the Police Department, and Arreola ordered the two officers fired, prompting votes of no-confidence from members of the police union. The officers later were reinstated after a lengthy court battle.
Relations between the Arreola and the police association had been strained ever since. Speculation grew that Arreola took the Tacoma job which represented an $8,000 cut in pay because Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist was not likely to renew his contract when the Chief’s seven-year term drew to a close this year.
Last month, a report by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged the Milwaukee Police Department with discriminating against black officers and applicants with respect to hiring, discipline, retaliation and working conditions. Arreola said the report, which resulted from a three-year investigation, was misleading, and in some cases, plain wrong.
“I’m open to scrutiny of any decisions I’ve made,” Arreola said. “But I made those decisions on a case-by-case basis.”
In Milwaukee, Norquist named Alfonso J. Graham, a senior assistant chief, as Arreola’s acting successor. Graham, a 32-year veteran who is the first black ever to lead the force, is being considered along with other high-ranking department officials for the job, said police spokeswoman Sgt. Anna Ruzinski.
The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission was expected to name a permanent successor by Nov. 1, she added.
Snowden at home
A divided Cincinnati City Council voted Sept. 11 to exempt Police Chief Michael Snowden from complying with the municipal residency rule so that he can live in a home outside the city that he and his wife built just before he was promoted to chief.
Snowden, the only one of the Police Department’s 1,200 employees who is required to abide by the residency rule, will be allowed to continue living at his home in Miami Township, which is located just outside Cincinnati. The 48-year-old Chief had maintained a city residence since he took command of the department in 1993.
Snowden did not return calls from Law Enforcement News, but Vice Mayor Tyrone Yates Jr., a City Council member who chairs its Law and Public Safety Committee, told LEN that the Chief “was faced with a situation where his wife wanted to move back to a home they had built together. They had a lot of attachment to it. In the last five years, they had a personal tragedy the loss of a child and there was a lot of emotion wrapped up in that. As I understand it, that was the basic reason [he sought the exemption].”
Fewer than 100 of the city’s 7,000 employees are required to live in Cincinnati, “much to my dismay,” said Yates, who would prefer that the rule was applied to all city employees.
While some officials suggested Snowden’s exemption would water down the residency requirement, the Chief said prior to the council’s vote that the rule would be more attractive if city officials provided some incentives, such as housing vouchers, a lower city tax rate and better public schools.
“If you want people to live in the city, you have to do other things to make it possible for them to live here, not force them. You have to give them incentives,” Snowden said.
To stay or go?
A lawsuit filed by a veteran Massachusetts police chief, in which he contends that the state’s mandatory retirement law for local police and firefighters is discriminatory, could have statewide ramifications if successful.
The suit, filed in Falls River Superior Court by North Attleborough Chief John D. Coyle, argues that the state law conflicts with the Federal Age Discrimination Employment Act. Coyle, who has been in law enforcement for 45 years, would like to remain on the job long enough to give a full 50 years of public service.
Coyle, who turned 65 on Aug. 6, was told he would have to retire on Sept. 1. “Chief Coyle has meant stability for this town,” said Tom Corrigan, a North Attleborough selectman and firefighter. “If he wasn’t 65, the question of whether or not he remained police chief would never come up.”
In Coyle’s lawsuit, he notes that his job is mainly administrative and does not entail the rigors of active duty. A preliminary injunction issued in late August by Judge John Xifavis is allowing Coyle to keep his position until he is physically or mentally unable to perform his duties, or a court rules otherwise.
The executive director of the New England Chiefs of Police Association, Coyle has been the town’s chief since 1970. During his tenure, he has been credited with expanding the department, restarting foot patrols, and starting bike patrols. North Attleborough, with a population that has doubled since 1951 to about 26,000, is also home to the area’s largest shopping mall.
Coyle was forced to sue the town and its retirement board because the town is his employer and the board enforces the state law. The town showed its support of Coyle last spring when it unanimously passed a home-rule petition that allowed the chief to stay on past the age of 65. A lawsuit was Coyle’s only option when the state Legislature failed to vote on the petition before the session ended on July 1.
As the Chief himself said, “When you issue 7,000 tickets a year, you make more than a few enemies.” Which is why, he added, the town’s support was so gratifying. “I would have never done what I did without the support of the town,” he said.
Marc Fisher, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, called Coyle an “outstanding police chief for this town.” North Attleborough, he said, should have the right to choose whether or not the chief is able to stay on the job.
If Coyle prevails, it could set a precedent throughout Massachusetts, keeping local police on the job until they are deemed physically and mentally unfit.
Until the court rules, however, the state will continue to advise towns to force police officers to retire at 65, said Dan Seferian, associate counsel of the Massachusetts Public Employee Retirement Administration.
Above & beyond
Law enforcement officers from Los Angeles to Connecticut were honored Oct. 3 at the third annual TOP COPS Awards ceremony held in Washington, D.C.
TOP COPS, sponsored by the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), pays tribute to police for outstanding service during the previous year. “Each and every day law enforcement officers do their job, protecting the citizens of our nation, yet no one calls them heroes,” said Robert T. Scully, NAPO’s executive director. “The TOP COPS Awards celebrate the men and women who have acted above and beyond the call of duty.”
The awards cited three officers from Plantation, Fla., Officers Joseph Alu Jr. and Robin Massey and Det. Jim O’Hara, as well as six officers from Belleville, N.J., Victor Linfante, Vincent Masi, James Melillo, John Pinto, Joseph Richiuso, and Joseph Tramaglini.
Two state law enforcers were among the honorees: Trooper 1st Class Mark Dowgiewicz of the Connecticut Department of Public Safety, and Sgt. Randall G. Kucaba of the Illinois State Police. Also honored were two Federal agents, Senior Special Agent David Schickedanz of the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Special Agent Curtis Compton of the U.S. Customs Service.
Other award-winners were: Police Officer III Michael A. Grasso, Los Angeles Police Department; Officer Walter J. Smith, Chicago Police Department; Patrol Officer Christopher Peterson, Lincoln, Neb., Police Department; Cpl. Regina Bonny, Midwest City, Okla., Police Department; Detectives Frank Della Ventura and Freddy E. Rocha, Providence, R.I., Police Department, and three officers from the Fairfax County, Va., Police Department: Special Agent Aaron Kush, Police Officer 1st Class Steve Needels and Officer Mark Royer.
Breath of life
John Allen, a Bloomfield, Conn., truck driver, was unable to save his father four years ago when a massive stroke took his life. Allen vowed right then that if he ever encountered another person in peril, he would help and be sure that his efforts made a difference. It’s lucky for Hartford Police Officer Joseph Inturri Jr., who last March nearly suffocated after his cruiser’s airbag inflated.
Inturri and Allen happened to be in the same place at the same time that day, or Inturri would not be around today to personally thank Allen, as he did recently after returning to work following an extensive recuperation.
On March 30, Inturri’s cruiser collided with another car while responding to a call. The cruiser’s airbag inflated into Inturri’s throat, blocking his windpipe.
Allen, 40, who was running errands for his mother that day, witnessed the accident and ran to the scene. Pushing back a crowd that had gathered and was shouting, “Get his gun,” Allen dragged Inturri from the crumpled car and applied cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the officer, who was already turning blue. Backup arrived, and Inturri, 37, was taken by ambulance to St. Francis Hospital in Hartford.
On his wedding day three weeks later, he could only mouth his vows because of the injury to his vocal cords.
Inturri was unable to remember anything after the airbag exploding into his throat, but fellow officers told him about the man who had helped him, then ran away when the television cameras showed up.
His injuries kept him out of work until late August, but on his second day back on the job, Inturri asked the Bloomfield Police Department to help him find his rescuer and they did. Sgt. Robert Lostimolo brought Allen back with him to the department.
Officer Michelle Lostimolo, who witnessed the reunion, told The Hartford Courant: “The officer gave him a great big hug. It was so sweet.”
The men took pictures together, and Inturri carries one in his pocket. With tears, he explained that it reminds him of how lucky he was that day.
“It was sort of an omen,” said Allen. “After my father passed, I vowed if I ever saw anyone in trouble, no matter who it was, I would help. If it happened again today, I’d do it again.”