News, Police/Fire

Mayor Arrigo: Revere is handcuffed by ‘outdated’ regulations

Mayor Brian Arrigo (File Photo)

REVERE — Mayor Brian Arrigo has formally requested that city officials amend a local ordinance which requires that the police chief has to be an internal hire. He referenced a past review of the police department that he says was buried from the public two years ago, which recommended casting a wider net for candidates.

Earlier this year, Arrigo, citing a difference in philosophy, opted against renewing the contract of former Police Chief Joseph Cafarelli, which expired on June 30. The mayor later appointed James Guido, formerly a captain in the department, as interim police chief, effective July 1.

City ordinance states that a chief needs to come from within the department, and can only be a captain or lieutenant with five years in that rank. After Arrigo requested that the City Council amend that ordinance last Monday, the council voted to send the request to the public safety subcommittee.  

The mayor said it shouldn’t just be accepted that police chief candidates should be better than others within their department, but that they should match up with the best candidates anywhere.

“In the name of public safety, we should accept nothing less,” Arrigo said. “The fact of the matter is, we are currently constraining ourselves to a limited pool of candidates when selecting someone for one of the most important jobs in the city of Revere. If we want the best minds and talents in the department to grow into the kinds of leaders we know that they can be, we should not constrain them. The message that we send to our police and our residents with these outdated restraints is that our city is willing to set lower expectations, reduce competition, and not listen to outside ideas.”

Arrigo said the internal candidates for police chief had also undergone a thorough assessment from four police chiefs outside the area, and all scored lower than what was expected — the highest grade was a B- and most candidates were in the C range.

Arrigo said that since taking office about 19 months ago, he’s taken the time to see how difficult the job is of being a police officer in Revere. It’s become clear to him how important it is to provide these “incredibly talented and courageous men and women” with the tools they need to succeed, and the resources necessary to allow them to develop and grow as leaders.

Guido is in place while a top to bottom organizational review of the police department is conducted, which was initiated by Arrigo, and is being conducted Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes and Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan. Arrigo has said that it is clear that the focus needs to be on transforming the police department into a modern outfit focused on 21st century community policing.

“When I first proposed conducting an organizational review of the Revere Police Department, the former mayor came to the podium at the City Council and accused such an effort of being an ‘insult’ to the men and women of the Revere Police Department,” Arrigo said. “He also said that such a review would be a waste of money. What was not said, and what recently came to my attention, is that the previous mayor’s administration actually did commission a $25,000 organizational review of the police department, back in 2015.

“When the findings of this review were presented to the former administration in July of 2015, they chose not to share the findings with the people of Revere,” Arrigo continued. “In fact, they did not even ask for a written copy of the draft report — despite paying the full $25,000 to the consultant. I’ll leave you to consider the reasons why this might have occurred.”

Arrigo said his administration uncovered the report about a month ago, and presented it to the City Council last week.

One of the recommendations that came out of the 2015 review, conducted by the Collins Center, was to hire a police chief from outside the department. Arrigo cited the report as supporting his request to amend the city ordinance — he said only Revere and Waltham restrict their pool to internal candidates.

“One of the most pressing issues … (is) the rule that the department must pick its chief from within,” the report reads. “This is not a civil service limitation, but rather a stipulation put in place within the city. While often it is desirable to promote from within, Revere has experienced a fair amount of turbulence over the past several years and the ability to bring in an outside leader with a different set of experiences could benefit the department in the future.”

The report further states that the promotion to chief in Revere mirrors much larger agencies, where the chief can come from a variety of ranks and is under a contract that allows the chief to return to their previous position if their contract isn’t renewed — for example Cafarelli, a former lieutenant, could have returned to that former civil service rank. “This is a more common occurrence in very large departments, but not appropriate for an agency the size of Revere,” the report said.

Arrigo said the report also found a number of issues within the department, including an inefficient organizational structure, lack of cohesion within command staff, a lack of proper training and career development for officers, the overemphasis on a paramilitary approach to policing, and a lack for a comprehensive 21st century strategy for working with the community to solve problems and prevent crime.

The report stated that there “is a true sense of ‘because it has always been done that way,’ which is often the response to suggestions of change when talking with department members.” Arrigo said that he does not accept “but we’ve always done it that way,” and neither do residents.

Some councilors were not pleased that the mayor had access to the 2015 report for a month, and they were just seeing it for the first time during the meeting.

“I really don’t like being blindsided like this,” said Ward 6 Councilor Charles Patch. “We just had a conversation, and if you’ve had this document here, why are you throwing it at us the night of the meeting?

“Wouldn’t it be more cordial to us if you kind of gave us a heads up that you had this (and) let us read it,” Patch continued. “I just would have liked to have had this to read before and you just come here, and you make these statements. We really — we can’t defend it. I don’t know what else is involved in this report because I haven’t read it.”

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