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Reports: Ashland’s police chief back on the job, state oversight panel hearing pending

ASHLAND, Mass. — Ashland Police Chief Cara Rossi returned to her job on Tuesday morning, after being on paid administrative leave for more than two months, according to Town Manager Michael Herbert and published reports.

According to The Boston Globe, Rossi had been on paid administrative leave while facing a state oversight panel hearing on her handling of a dispatcher’s sexual assault complaint against then-Natick police Sgt. James Quilty in 2020 while Rossi was a Natick police lieutenant. Quilty has since pleaded guilty to indecent assault and battery, and is decertified and resigned from the Natick Police Department

Deputy Chief Michael Vinciulla has led the Ashland Police Department temporarily since late January.

The POST Commission is also looking into an alleged argument Rossi had with a witness in the investigation after she had left Natick in mid-2022 to lead the Ashland Police Department, the MetroWest Daily News reported.

The MetroWest Daily News reported that the former Natick dispatcher has filed a lawsuit against the town of Natick, Quilty and Rossi. Rossi has denied allegations that she intimidated the victim into not making a formal complaint about Quilty’s assault.

“Chief Rossi was placed on administrative leave in order to let me look further into information that I became aware of,” Herbert said in an email statement to the Boston Globe. “Having done that, and being satisfied with the answers and information that I received, I see no reason to keep Chief Rossi out on leave and therefore she will resume her duties on April 2.”

Rossi testified before the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission in a hearing last month, in which she expressed regret for her handling of the sexual assault complaint four years ago, the Globe reported.

Prosecutors have accused Rossi of failing to adequately investigate the dispatcher’s claims despite receiving reliable information from colleagues, the Globe reported. They also pointed to a confrontation with a current Natick lieutenant in June 2023 as an example of a pattern of “unprofessional conduct,” said attorney Shaun Martinez, who represents the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission.

According to a March 31 email to the Police Department obtained by the Boston Globe, Herbert, the town manager, said Rossi’s administrative leave was his decision, not the POST Commission’s, although “the issues are intertwined.”

“Administrative leave is utilized oftentimes in order to look deeper into circumstances and information,” Herbert said in the email to the Globe.

The Boston Globe reported Rossi was given a five-day suspension, which was shortened to two days because of her otherwise clean record. Rossi, who began working as a Natick patrol officer in 1994, also attended two days of training.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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