FRAMINGHAM, Mass. - An assistant to a local police chief has been pulling over drivers and responding to police scenes, 25 Investigates uncovered.
Boston 25 News Anchor Blair Miller has been digging into questions about police powers given to “special police officers” for months and found police chiefs have broad discretion when it comes to handing out badges and guns.
In Framingham, one special police officer has a badge, an unmarked police vehicle and even a gun.
That special police officer – Brian Simoneau – pulled over driver Cristian Albizurez in 2015.
Albizurez told 25 Investigates an SUV cut him off, so he honked his horn at the vehicle – which he later learned was an unmarked police vehicle driven by Simoneau.
“That turned out to be a mistake because sirens start blaring,” said Albizurez.
Simoneau wasn’t wearing a uniform when he ticketed Albizurez for failing to yield at an intersection. Simoneau’s official title is assistant to the police chief – his $111,000 town job.
That salary is on top of the $300 weekly stipend he gets as a lawyer for the Framingham Police Department.
Simoneau is also an unpaid special police officer with a badge and a police gun.
Police expert raises concerns
“I've never heard of such a thing because it simply doesn't make good police practice sense,” said Tom Nolan.
Nolan is a 27-year veteran of the Boston Police Department and former lieutenant and questions why Simoneau has been given police powers, including making traffic stops.
“If he shoots someone, it's a huge liability for the town,” said Nolan. “Any chief could see this – any line supervisor could see that this is just a bad idea and the potential is there for missteps.”
Each community sets its own rules for special police officers, but these officers largely go untracked by the state.
In Massachusetts, state law exempts all special officers from police academy training, but a lawyer for Framingham told 25 Investigates Simoneau trained as a reserve cop, has taught police training classes and once served as a part-time officer in two Central Massachusetts towns.
Simoneau hasn’t just been pulling over drivers.
Special officer responded to police scenes
25 Investigates obtained dispatch recordings showing Simoneau responding to police scenes. During one call on May 1, 2015, he tried to slow other officers heading to the scene of an alleged assault:
- SIMONEAU: All units responding to Dom's can slow down. Slow your response. It's under control.
- DISPATCHER: Uh, who's this? We don't have you on the roster here.
- SIMONEAU: Brian Simoneau
Framingham Sgt. Scott Brown, president of the Framingham Police Superior Officers Association, says his union sent a letter to the chief two years ago warning that Simoneau was “responding to police calls for service and is not a police officer” The letter also stated that Simoneau had “no in-service trainings.”
Brown said there is no public safety reason why Simoneau would need to carry a badge and police gun.
“For whatever reason, the chief wants to allow this,” said Brown. “I think common sense would say, ‘Does it seem like the right thing?’ Because it doesn't to me.”
Officer has past history of suspensions and reprimands
25 Investigates also learned Simoneau was suspended at least twice and reprimanded three times while working as a part-time reserve officer in Hubbardston in the mid-1990s.
25 Investigates anonymously received Simoneau’s disciplinary records – later authenticated by the former Hubbardston police chief who wrote them.
The files show Simoneau was written up for causing an accident by “misuse of a blue light” in his personal vehicle and for illegally taking a driver’s license away from a driver he pulled over and keeping it.
Simoneau was also reprimanded for holding an unauthorized gun training exercise with teenagers at night without the chief’s knowledge or parental approval.
The police chief at the time wrote that Simoneau “unnecessarily endangered these kids.”
Simoneau eventually resigned in Hubbardston after less than two years.
Lawyer and town defend ‘special police officer’
A lawyer for the Town of Framingham said Simoneau disputes these complaints from more than 20 years ago and said he has a strong record of performance as a police officer.
25 Investigates asked the Framingham Police Chief for a sit-down interview. He agreed, but then later called back to cancel.
In a statement, Framingham Chief Ken Ferguson told 25 Investigates Simoneau “has sufficient training and experience to serve as a special police officer.”
The Framingham Town Manager told us he stands by the chief and said Simoneau was appointed a special police officer in 2001.
“I support the chief of police in his decision making and in my interaction with him, he has assured me that Brian Simoneau meets all of the qualifications to be a reserve, intermittent, special police officer,” said Town Manager Robert Halpin.
‘Trained and qualified with the firearm’
Brian Simoneau declined interview requests, but 25 Investigates caught up with him outside the Framingham Police Department.
When asked why he has a badge and police gun, Simoneau would only say, “It was issued to me by my employer, the Framingham Police Department.”
He also told 25 Investigates, “I'm trained and qualified with the firearm. I've met the qualification standards.”
The town gave Simoneau a police gun just two years ago and records obtained by 25 Investigates show Simoneau completed 20 hours of reserve officer firearms training for Framingham in April 2015.
He also completed 96 hours of reserve police basic training in 1993, according to state records.
That was enough training for reserve officers at the time, but that’s far different from the 372 hours of training required for reserve officers today. And that’s only a portion of the 920 academy hours required for full-time police officers.
When asked whether he should be pulling people over and giving citations, Simoneau told 25 Investigates, “I need to go because I'm late for a meeting. So I have to go.”
Cristian Albizurez paid his ticket, but now questions whether he should have been pulled over in the first place.
“Now I feel like strongly I was not at fault,” said Albizurez. “(I’m) not angry – just very surprised and shocked that this could even happen.”
A lawyer for the town insists that Simoneau is qualified to be a special police officer. He let 25 Investigates look at Simoneau’s training records but wouldn’t allow any copies to be made or for the records to be taken out of his office.
The lawyer also says Simoneau is being unfairly targeted because he’s named in a lawsuit filed by a former Framingham officer.
© 2018 Cox Media Group.