One of the most shocking revelations in the Officer Dan Talbot murder trial has not been the evidence, but rather the conduct of the Revere Police before and after the shooting.
It has been disclosed that officers were drinking in their vehicle on the way home from a work-related shooting range event.
That they ran up quite a bar tab at a local restaurant, then retired to drink in public behind the Revere High School.
That they taunted troubled teen-agers with vulgarities as if it were a joke, and then – as one officer testified – they were ready to brawl with them.
To top it off, responding officers violated numerous, and basic crime scene protocols for securing the scene, its evidence and the witnesses.
Nevertheless, Mayor Tom Ambrosino and Chief Terence Reardon said that there would be no further discipline to officers for conduct revealed in the trial. They both said officers had been punished enough already.
“There is really nothing you can say,” said the chief this week. “Were they drinking and driving? We don’t know their intoxication level. Two years later, to prove that evidentiary is impossible. Even if they admit it themselves, what can I possibly say? They violated an open container law. It would never stand up at any civil service hearing.”
“They’ve been subjected to a horrendous incident that they will remember their entire lives,” he continued. “In terms of punitive measures, that is more horrific punishment than anything I could levy.”
Officers William Soto and Stacy Bruzzese were present at the scene and were drinking behind the high school with Talbot and his fiancée, Connie Bethel, when the shooting happened. Soto is one of three officers that were said to be drinking in the vehicle on the way back to Revere earlier that evening. Both Soto and Bruzzese were suspended for five days for their conduct. However, in lieu of that suspension they were allowed to serve out punishment duty – which meant completing 40 hours of community service.
Mayor Ambrosino pointed out that the matter between Soto and Bruzzese never reached his desk, as the chief handled it internally. Ambrosino said he desired no further discipline for the officers.
“I have no desire to revisit further discipline,” he said, reiterating, “I am not revisiting discipline.”
And then, “I had said in my decision with Officer Evan Franklin if [Soto and Bruzzese] appealed and came here, it would be a 30-day suspension without pay. I believe they accepted significantly less discipline and it was a wise choice not to appeal it.
“I have full confidence in the chief,” he added. “I’m not in the police business. I select a chief and have confidence he will do the job.”
Meanwhile, Council President Tony Zambuto said that once the trial is over and the dust has settled, he believes that more than a few councillors will file motions seeking some discussion of the matter.
“I believe there are a couple councillors who will have motions to file on this,” he said.
He said the Council’s Public Safety Committee would handle any discussion of the matter. Retired Police Officer Charlie Patch chairs that committee.
Aside from the bad decisions, though, there were some downright basic logistical and training problems that emerged during the incident.
In the first response, there was no supervisor on scene, as his car broke down at Northgate. The scene was taken over by the most senior patrolman, and it was uncertain how long it took for a supervisor to reach the crime scene.
The chain of command seemed to break down and no one appeared to have a clear enough head to make sure that key evidence (i.e., both Talbot’s and Soto’s guns) and key witnesses (i.e., Soto, Bethel and Bruzzese) stayed on the scene.
Normal protocol – as we’re told by those who train law enforcement – is that when a shooting occurs, especially a police shooting, all the guns on scene are to be secured and witnesses are to be detained unless they require medical attention.
In the Talbot case, Soto removed both guns and left the scene. Other officers actually transported him in police cruisers across the city looking for suspects while he was armed with both weapons.
Bethel and Bruzzese also left the scene almost immediately to drive into the hospital in Boston.
The breakdown in the case seemed to occur from the very first response.
Even one civilian neighbor – who was actually the first outsider on the scene – testified in court he told Soto that the guns should probably be left behind at the scene, that they probably needed to be fingerprinted or something.
Nevertheless, those weapons – which were fired during the incident – were handed off to several officers and driven all over the city before being turned over to supervisors and investigators.
Even the prosecutors were critical of the Revere Police’s response to the crime scene.
Chief Terence Reardon said that he disagreed with a lot of the criticism, and that they did their best at the time.
“The DA’s office even made some comments about that and I don’t know where he was coming from,” he said. “To me, Soto is the best observer of the crime. You take the best witness with you. We do that all the time on identification show ups. Basically, he went out to see if he could locate the perpetrators and we weren’t going to send him out unarmed.
“Some said that’s not a good idea,” he continued. “Frankly, if he could have caught them at the scene this case would have gone a lot smoother. We do the best we can at the time. It’s very easy to Monday morning quarterback.”
And, even so, the chief said that when the case is complete, he would sit down with the entire department and discuss lessons learned.
He said that they will address and institute behavioral changes and even the way they do business with regard to dispatch coordination and coordination at the crime scene.
“These issues have to be addressed,” he said. “Once this is over I will be addressing something department wide as to lessons learned…Police officers are held to a higher standard than the average Joe. If you want to be a police officer, you had better be ready to abide by that, whether it’s fair or unfair. Otherwise, get a job somewhere else. It goes part and parcel with the job.”