Punishment termed private; acting chief offers new details

Lt. Richard Pedrini, MPA photoLt. Richard Pedrini, MPA photo

JuliannFlaherty 909 1918Acting Chief Flahery

UPDATED, April 3: Lt. Rick Pedrini, on paid leave since late October following blunt comments he wrote in a statewide police publication, plans to return to work April 15 in the chief's office.

Acting Chief Juliann Flaherty responded April 2 to questions from YourArlington after a March 29 town news release said the officer was cleared to return to active duty under supervision after he participated in restorative justice.

The town's statement said the officer is “required to undertake a number of additional restorative steps, including a written public apology and be subjected to certain punitive actions (which cannot be disclosed publicly for legally mandated reasons of employee privacy).”

He is to return to work supervised by the acting chief, who is responsible for enforcing the terms of his return.

The town used a private restorative-justice process to address remarks written in the Massachusetts Police Association magazine, The Sentinel, advocating violence against offenders. That process has ended, the statement said.

 'Best opportunity to heal'

“This process provided the best opportunity for our community to heal from the divisive, irresponsible and unacceptable comments that he published in a law enforcement journal last year,” the statement said.

Restorative justice focuses on the rehabilitation of responsible parties through “deep engagement and reconciliation with victims and members of the community,” the statement said. The process was conducted by the town in partnership with the nonprofit Communities for Restorative Justice. Until March. 6,The Human Rights Commission collected statements from the public from those who said they had been harmed by Lt. Pedrini's comments.

As part of the process, the officer participated in a series of meetings with representatives of the immigrant community, Mystic Valley NAACP, religious community and law enforcement community, as well as municipal officials and Town Meeting members. The statement said the meetings occurred “over many hours." The first meeting of those involved, called a circle, occurred in February.

Acting Chief Flaherty was asked what day the second and last circle was held.

She responded: "One of the pillars of the restorative-justice process is confidentiality, so I cannot share the exact details of the second circle.  However, I can share with you that the second circle was held over the course of two separate days, which combined for nearly 10 hours of dialogue.

Asked who was present in that circle, she provided this list: Flaherty plus Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, Director of Human Resources Caryn Molloy and Lt. Pedrini. Joining them were two representatives of Communities for Restorative Justice, who she said worked to facilitate the circle discussion. "The remaining participants were representatives of the community groups most affected by this matter, but their identities are being kept confidential as part of the restorative-justice process," she wrote.

Asked who decided Lt. Pedrini's return, she wrote: "The ultimate decision rests with the town manager, as the appointing authority, but he came to his decision in consultation with me and the HR director and with the feedback and input of the circle participants." 

100 in community responded

In all, the officer heard comments from more than 100 members of the community in person and in writing, the town's March 25 statement said.

Lt. Pedrini's return to work must include that he has demonstrated remorse, it said.

The officer was offered restorative justice, the statement said, because he expressed remorse for, and acknowledged the harm created by, his comments, and because those comments did not reflect his record and performance as a police officer. He has been on the force since 1996.

The statement added: “It is important to note that the traditional labor arbitration and litigation process is inherently uncertain and presents little opportunity for community healing. Through restorative justice, the town was able to guide an outcome and promote a therapeutic dialogue.”

The statement concluded:

“The Town of Arlington has no tolerance for the type of employee behavior exhibited by Lt. Pedrini, which is at odds with the progressive programs and policies championed by the Town and Police Department.

“We believe that this innovative approach to addressing the matter is just, expressive of our abhorrence of such behavior, and useful in advancing the goals of respectfulness and inclusion in our civic life.

“We are grateful for the support and guidance provided during the process by Communities for Restorative Justice as well as the dedicated community members who brought tremendous perspective and wisdom to the process.”

In a February announcement, officials said they determined in a meeting to assess the viability of using the process that Lt. Pedrini expressed enough remorse for harm caused to the Arlington community to make him an appropriate candidate for the restorative-justice process. Chapdelaine and Flaherty also saw it both fitting and proper that restorative justice be used to address this situation. 

What it is, where it has been used

Earlier in February, Lt. Pedrini sat with community leaders in Arlington for a restorative circle, overseen by Communities for Restorative Justice Inc.

Restorative justice is an approach to justice in which the response to an offense is to organize a facilitated dialogue or meeting between the parties involved, including those harmed, and the offender and sometimes with representatives of a wider community present as well.

Restorative justice was used to deal with all 14 students involved in May 2018 vandalism at Arlington High School. Results are not made public.

It was also used in the 2015 case of vandalism involving a Black Lives Banner at First Parish.

The approach was championed by Police Chief Fred Ryan, who retired in January.

'No more fitting solution' 

"When we reviewed all options available to us to resolve this matter, we felt there was no more effective or more fitting solution than the restorative justice process. Not only does this process reflect the values of the Arlington community by allowing for community input and reconciliation, but it provides the greatest opportunity for a lasting and valuable outcome – healing," Chapdelaine said in a February release.

“As always, when faced with a difficult situation, we turn to our trusted partners in the community for guidance. Restorative justice is a tried and true method -- championed by Arlington since its inception -- to offer healing to the community when there is a breach.”

The ultimate goal of this effort was to restore the harm caused by Lt. Pedrini, chart a path for his return to work that provides him an opportunity to learn and grow from the incident and allows the town to begin to rebuild the trust that was lost as a result of the incident.

"It is our sincere hope that this deeply distressing situation will serve as a teachable moment for all public servants," Flaherty said in February. "The partnerships forged here in Arlington are on full display, proving again that a police department's potential for success is only as great as its connection to the community and the trust placed in it by its citizens."

Arlington is a founding member of Communities for Restorative Justice, a nonprofit collaboration of communities and police departments that offers restorative justice to those affected by crime. The organization’s “circle” process recognizes that an offense or crime is a violation of people and relationships, not always simply a violation of rules or laws.

Quotations published earlier

In the 2018 edition of The Sentinel, the official publication of the MPA: "I am sick and tired of the social justice warriors telling us how to do our jobs. It's time we forget about 'restraint,' 'measured responses,' 'procedural justice,' 'de-escalation', 'stigma-reduction' and other feel-good BS that is getting our officers killed. Let's stop lipsynching, please! Let's meet violence with violence and get the job done."

The views run counter to the department Chief Ryan has run since 1999. The issues raised involve conflicts between the officer's First Amendment rights and the right of an administrator to operate a department as he sees fit. Civil Service protections for employees restrain what actions may be taken.

Lt. Pedrini described the writing in an interview with WBUR as "satire."

Both Ryan and Chapdelaine countered Tuesday, Oct. 30, with statements.

The news release issued by John Guilfoil said Pedrini has been relieved of duty and placed on paid administrative leave while the Town of Arlington and Arlington Police Department investigate this matter.

Later on Oct. 30, the MPA said in a statement it has suspended Lt. Pedrini from his duties with the organization and is retracting his columns. 

Feb. 21, 2019: Town seeks restorative justice with Lt. Pedrini
Nov. 7, 2018: Town takes issue with on-leave officer 'seriously,' manager says
Oct. 30, 2018: Police lieutenant placed on leave after harsh comments
Globe, Oct. 30: Officer who wrote ‘meet violence with violence’ is put on leave

This news summary was published Friday, March 29, 2019, and updated April 3, to add new details.