Police leadership disputes report findings

Deputy chief highlights mistakes, lack of fairness

Editor’s note: Deputy Chief Chris Cutter sent this response prior to the July 17 Abington News article on the MRI report. However, the editor overlooked it in his inbox and did not include it in the original article. Instead, the July 17 article quoted from a separate, longer letter Cutter had sent the subcommittee overseeing the study prior to MRI’s presentation to the full Board of Selectmen this past Monday. Abington News apologizes to Dep. Cutter for the oversight. The orginal article has been updated to reflect this, and out of fairness, we are publishing this article as a follow-up.

Abington Police Deputy Chief Chris Cutter is disputing many findings and recommendations contained in a recent independent report on the department’s operations and policies, questioning it’s methodology, accuracy, quality, and even handedness specifically to department leadership.

“[When] a study and report of such magnitude and expense is conducted it’s not o.k. to fail to accurately report on the facts and it’s not o.k. to select verbiage or offer a conclusion in a way that gives the reader the impression that something isn’t being done, all the while making a recommendation to do something that is already in practice,” Cutter wrote in a 23-page letter sent to the Abington News.

“Doing this is an attempt to justify the total costs to the taxpayers of Abington at the expense of the police department. It’s obvious to me that MRI failed to properly hear both sides of many topics and dismissed the few conversations we did have. It also appears to me that MRI used the ‘boilerplate’ language in their report and failed to tailor it to the realities of policing on a smaller Massachusetts police department.”

Cutter said his thoughts reflect those of Abington Police Chief David Majenski, who has not yet made commented publicly on the report’s findings.

The report was conduced by Municipal Resources Inc., a New Hampshire-based consultancy firm with experience reviewing law enforcement agencies. Town meeting in 2019 approved up to $30,000 for the review. The Board of Selectmen proposed the study after Majenski sent a letter to then-Town Manager Rick LaFond in April 2019 indicating he would be retiring in 2021. Majenski earlier this year rescinded that letter. The report also comes after years of growing concern over the consistently high number of officers leaving the Abington Police Department after just a couple years. MRI’s report cited a newspaper article that found 55 full-time officers and sergeants had left the department between 2004 and 2019 — an annual turnover rate of about 13 percent.

Selecmen Kevin DiMarzio, who served on the subcommittee that oversaw the study, declined to comment on Cutter’s letter. Board of Selectmen Chairman Tim Chapin also declined to comment.

MRI’s 162-page report found that while the department overall stacks up well, especially when compared to other similarly-sized departments, that there areas ripe for improvement, especially to help address morale issues that are contributing to the high turnover rate. The company offered 53 short, medium, and long-term recommendations on how the department could improve across five core areas, including the department’s organizational structure, management and human resources, written directives, and the office of the chief. 

In his letter, Cutter ackowledges there is always room for improvement, but disagrees with many of MRI’s findings.

“I’m appreciative of those sound recommendations MRI makes that moves us in a positive  ‘Community Partners’ direction, but I’m equally dismissive and defensive of those aspects of the report that places the town, the department, or myself in a light that is not reflective of practice,” he wrote.

Cutter says the report fails to properly credit department leaders in areas where the department is ahead of the curve — Abington is one of just a few departments in the region to be accredited by the Massachusetts Police Accrediation Commission, for example — or for already implementing a number of its suggestions. Instead, he feels MRI employed a cut-and-paste approach in making its recommendations.

“It appears to me, and if you look closely I’m sure you can come to the same conclusion, that MRI has a standard document on file and that document contains what they think are topics of a management study,” he wrote. “It’s then my belief that MRI proceeds to cut and paste ‘Abington’ into it which references the information the Chief and I provided them.”

As an example, Cutter higlights MRI’s use of the term “commanders” in multiple places despite that not being a term used by Abington Police to describe supervisors or management. He also zeroes in on a recommendation by MRI that Abington police should focus more on solving underlying problems than how fast officers can respond to and then clear a scene.

“I provided MRI with a long list of problem-solving activities myself and my officers have participated in, but they failed to report on it. There is also no factual basis that any officer is ever encouraged to swiftly clear calls for service and to suggest this diminishes the time our officers do spend on calls to ensure a quality product is delivered,” Cutter wrote.

The Board of Selectmen said Monday night it will schedule an in-person public meeting in the near future to give residents an opportunity to ask questions about the report’s findings.

The MRI report can be found here: https://www.abingtonma.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif236/f/uploads/final_mri_report_redacted_7.10.20.pdf

Deputy Chief Cutter’s letter can be downloaded here:

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