Abington officer on leave following Stoughton PD investigation

An Abington Police officer is being investigated in connection with a troubling report released Friday by the Stoughton Police Department that accuses three former members of that department of having inappropriate relationships with a 21-year-old woman who took her own life last year.

“The Abington Police Department is aware of allegations of misconduct concerning one of its officers,” Chief David Del Papa said in a release Friday afternoon. “This Department does not take allegations of officer misconduct lightly. These are serious allegations and will be investigated thoroughly. An Internal Affairs investigation into this matter is currently underway.”

Del Papa declined to name the officer, who has been placed on paid administrative leave.

“It’s just going to result in innuendo and speculation and result in damaging that person’s reputation before an investigation can take place,” he said in a followup interview.

An internal investigation by the Stoughton Police Department detemined that former officers Matthew Farwell, William Farwell, and Robert Devine had inappropriate relationships with Sandra Birchmore, whom they met through the department’s youth explorers program. The report says Matthew Farwell had an inappropriate relationship with Birchmore starting when Birchmore was 15 and he was 27, but did not go into specifics of that relationship.

Birchmore was pregnant when she took her own life in Febryary 2021. She reportedly was telling friends that Matthew Farwell was the father.

Stoughton’s investigation found the Farwell brothers engaged in “conduct unbecoming of an officer” and failed in their “attention and devotion to duty” by texting and meeting up Birchmore while on duty, and lying to State Police investigators about their relationships following her death. The report says that Devine was untruthful about having contact or a relationship with Birchmore when questioned by investigators. Devine previously was demoted from deputy chief for misleading investigators looking into allegations he ordered an officer to investigate a woman he had an affair with. All three resigned from the police department before the results of the investigation were released.

The Stoughton report is heavily redacted in areas making it difficult to know the exact nature of the Abington officer’s relationship with the young woman. Stoughton Police Chief Donna McNamara only said during a press conference Friday that it was “inappropriate.”

The officer was interviewed by investigators twice, including once at Abington Town Hall this past February. The first interview ended with the officer requesting to bring in legal counsel, according to the report. The report leaves a name unredacted that coincides with the last name of an Abington police officer, but Del Papa declined to confirm if that was the officer involved.

Del Papa said the Stoughton Deputy Chief told him in December 2021 the officer was a material witness in the ongoing investigation, but couldn’t get into specifics. Del Papa asked whether the officer should be placed on administrative leave and was told no. The Stoughton Deputy Chief also told Del Papa at that time he would let him know if the officer’s status in the investigation changed. Del Papa said he was notified that the officer was facing allegation this week as the department finalized the report.

School Superintendent Peter Schafer said the department is “fully cooperating with all authorities” and referred further questions to Del Papa. Selectmen Chairman Alex Bezanson also deferred to the police chief.

McNamara said she is recommending that the three Stoughton officers be decertified so they can never serve as police officers again. The report has also been forwarded to the Norfolk County District Attorney’s Office.

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