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Town seeks restorative justice with Lt. Pedrini

Union on board; community statements were accepted through March 6

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

achapdelaine 72016Chapdelaine

UPDATED, Feb. 22: Arlington and its Police Department are pursuing a restorative-justice process with an officer who has been on paid administrative leave since late October after inflammatory columns were published in a police advocacy organization's newsletter, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine and Acting Police Chief Julie Flaherty report.  

The columns written by Lt. Richard Pedrini in the Massachusetts Police Association magazine, The Sentinel, were offensive to many and advocated violence against offenders, a news release from the town Thursday, Feb. 21, said. His writings also directly undermined the progressive programs championed by the Arlington Police Department and the Town of Arlington, it said.

Officials determined in a meeting with Communities for Restorative Justice 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 this month, 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'

Juliann FlahertyJuliann Flaherty

"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 the 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.”

Disciplinary measures

During the circle, Pedrini, Chapdelaine and Flaherty reached a restorative agreement, which includes a second restorative circle with community stakeholders, and subsequent engagement with staff at the APD to describe the harm that Pedrini caused along with lessons gleaned from this process. There will also be disciplinary measures that acknowledge the seriousness of his actions.

Asked Feb. 22 for details, Chapdelaine wrote in an email that he "could not be more specific at this time as the disciplinary portion of this is considered a confidential personnel matter."

Asked whether the union representing Lt. Pedrini is on board with restorative justice, Chapdelaine wrote: "All involved parties, including the Arlington Ranking Officers Association, have agreed with proceeding with restorative justice as a way to resolve this matter."

Representatives from various community groups, including the Arlington Human Rights Commission, will be asked to participate in this second restorative circle and contribute to this important dialogue. The town is also soliciting the submission of community statements describing the harm that was caused by Pedrini’s writings so that they can be shared with him as part of the restorative circle process.

Community statements can be submitted using a Google form available here >> 

Statements will be collected, organized, and shared in the second restorative circle by representatives of the Arlington Human Rights Commission. The deadline for submitting a statement is Wednesday, March 6.

2nd circle in March

The second restorative circle will be scheduled in March. The ultimate goal of this effort is 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. "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.

Lt. Pedrini has been employed by the Arlington Police Department since 1996.

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 Town Manager Adam 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. 

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 Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, and updated Feb. 22, to correct a link the community-input link and to add comment.

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