STEROIDSGATE: HOW FAR REACHING IS THE PROBLEM IN PPD. SOME MEMBERS SPEAK OUT, plus, BERKSHIRE GREENS, NEW PAC, GRILLS LENOX SELECT BOARD CANDIDATES
BY DAN VALENTI
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, March 29, 2011) — Doesn’t SteroidsGate — the federal probe into the use of illegal steroids by police officers, including those in the Pittsfield Police Department — amount to one question? That question is: How extensive is the use of steroids in the PPD? By “use,” we mean buying, procuring, selling, using, and disposing of the muscle-making drug.
The answer is up for debate. It wasn’t that long ago that Pittsfield officials denied any problem and implied there was no such use. Now we know that at least one PPD member and a state trooper are involved in a probe by the US Postal Department investigators (using the mails to send and received illicit substances) and what appears to be the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The state police are in the midst of an internal probe (they have not named the accused trooper, who has been demoted). The Pittsfield Police conducted its own probe, led by Capt. David Granger. David Kirchner, the PPD officer, and the as-yet unnamed state trooper, are the only ones officially linked to the investigation thus far.
How Widespread is Steroid Use in the PPD?
There are indications, however, that the problem of steroids plagues the PPD much more extensively than one officer. Maybe so, maybe not. One problem that severely hampers an honest look into the situation is the Iron Blue Curtain that cops lower to block a view of wrongdoing by one of their own. It’s not just the PPD that does this, but virtually every unit made up of mostly men that deem themselves a “band of brothers.” It takes a Frank Serpico, a person with integrity and guts who knows what’s going on from the inside and comes forward on the record, to break it open.
Is there a Frank Serpico in the PPD? There are plenty who have thought about it, if only in a fantasy. That is so because there are lots of great cops working for the city of Pittsfield. The Planet sees a causal relationship: The better the cop, the more disgusted he or she is with SteroidsGate. Yeah, The Planet has been working our sources. Some of these good people are beginning to talk — cautiously, yes, but a journey of a thousand miles beings with baby steps.
What Goes On Using the Dime of the Taxpayers?
Is there a situation that has been hidden for years from taxpayers, residents, and ordinary citizens that would require the services of a Serpico? That’s the question. The Kirchner case has caused dissension in the ranks and has become the trigger for the unleashing of what appears to be a lot of pent up frustration. Some within the department are beginning to speak — tentatively, under condition that no names be revealed, and with layers of deniability.
Used to be and still is in some communities that the local daily newspaper would champion this fight. Today, as we know, the Boring Broadsheet only got involved after this story broke online. The Planet has given Conor Berry credit for pursuing it, and Berry has done good work moving the story forward. His piece today reveals officially that the probe extends beyond Berkshire County.
Granger’s Probe: Five Days Quick
The confirmation that the probe extends beyond Berkshire County is a significant development locally, because it could assist any effort by the PPD to coverup what might be a much larger problem than one officer, identified in Granger’s report as officer David Kirchner. Be clear. We aren’t saying the PPD is engaged in a coverup. We are only repeating a claim made by some members of the department. The Planet doesn’t know, but we are at least willing to raise the question on behalf of many good cops.
Kirchner was a plainclothes officer assigned to the detective bureau to assist in drug cases. He was also a member of the Berkshire County Drug Task Force, a multidepartmental police squad. Following the probe, Kirchner was suspended for five days, demoted back to uniform, and assigned the midnight shift. The PPD has not said if the suspension was with or without pay, but in a new little bit of information to move the story, a PPD source told The Planet that the suspension was unpaid. We believe that information is credible and will claim it as fact.
In another piece of information, PPD sources tell The Planet Granger’s investigation into steroids within the PPD lasted only five days: “Why did Granger’s investigation last only five days,” one asked, “while most internal affairs investigations in the police department usually drag on for months, and that’s for simple cases”?
Like Probation, Like PPD
Consider the feds point of view. Compared to other higher profile locales, Pittsfield doesn’t look sexy in a prosecutor’s report. It’s the boonies and sticks. The Planet is not saying such a thing is happening with the federal steroids investigation, but sometimes the tendency is to concentrate on wrongdoing in the more “glamorous” locations. Didn’t we see that very thing happen in the Ware investigation into the “pay-for-play” Probation Department payola scandal? Berkshire County Superior Court was little more than an afterthought, despite rumors of problems that stemmed well beyond patronage. Who bothered to look in Berkshire County and how thoroughly?
If one goes by anecdotal information accumulated over the years, the PPD’s track record has been to keep scandal hidden. The Administration certainly has a vested interest in looking the other way at any hint of trouble, and without a credible, investigatory media in Berkshire County — a lapdog daily, PR Fluffy News in local radio? You kidding? — corruption remains buried. Unfortunately, for the community good, corruption also has a radioactive half life exceeding plutonium. It festers. It causes mutations. It seeps out in bad ways.
Let’s not forget the hidden victims in this case. They are the many excellent men and women citizens should be proud to have serving the city of Pittsfield within the PPD. They are honest people, they became cops for the public service part of it, and they are disgusted with much of what’s going within the department. They complain of lack of leadership. They say Chief Micheal Wynn is a figurehead, in over his head. Chief Wynn has not returned The Planet’s requests for comments.
The Planet has enjoyed a good relationship with Chief Wynn. We realize that this situation has put a lot of pressure on him. He has our confidence, and until proven otherwise, he should have the backing of the citizens.
The newly emboldened police sources also complain about how much “crud” is swept under the carpet. For example, and it’s a small one, sources shared this case from the just-concluded weekend:
“Over the weekend, an off-duty officer [THE PLANET HAS REDACTED THE NAME, WHICH THE SOURCES MENTION] was involved in a fight with a guy and was stabbed in the leg. They arrested the other guy, even though it looked like OFFICER REDACTED was under the influence and instigated it. Again, it was all hush-hush and brushed under the carpet. Happened on Mohawk Street.” The sources say an investigation is under way and predicts: “Again, they’ll whitewash it, and it won’t make the light of day.”
MEMO TO THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE: LOOK INTO THIS ONE. IF YOU NEED HELP, CONTACT THE PLANET.
Police sources have told The Planet of five or six other incidents “that have gone on at the department in the past few months that the Eagle never got ahold of.” Again, The Planet received this information from several PPD sources who spoke under conditions of strict anonymity.
PPD sources have told The Planet they are “outraged by this behavior.” The Planet’s sources disputed what a source told Conor Berry in today’s paper, “that only two officers” are involved in SteroidsGate and that “No other officers are expected to be charged.”
They disagree. “This story is huge,” they claim. “It needs to be investigated and those all the way up the chain of command need to be investigated too.” They also warned, “Watch out. These people are dangerous. There’s nothing they wouldn’t do to protect their positions and reign of power.” One of the sources added, “I know that sounds a bit melodramatic, but it’s not. It’s the reality of the situation.”
The Planet thanks the sources for their cooperation. We stand for every good cop out there, for few have tougher jobs.
Lenox Candidates Questioned on Issues
One of the exciting developments politically has been the growing interest in grassroots politics. Case in point: The Berkshire Greens, a newly formed political action committee based in Pittsfield. The BGs will be a factor in the Lenox town elections set for May, and, no doubt, in Campaign 2011 in Berkshire County. The Planet applauds their involvement. The BGs recently sent candidates for Lenox select board a questionnaire. Here’s what’s going on.
Contact persons for the BGs: Michael Kaplan, Chairperson; Judy Merritt 413-637-4668
E-mail address: email@example.com
Their press release:
All four candidates appearing on the May 9 ballot for Lenox Select Committee
were sent a questionnaire today [March 28] by a newly-formed political action
committee. Thirteen questions address a variety of issues that are facing
Lenox, such as wind energy, a fair tax system, the local economy, food
systems, PCB’s in the Housatonic River, health care, along with budget and
Dr. Michael Kaplan, of Lenox, is the Chairman of Berkshire Greens Political
Action Committee, whose mission is to advance key values in public policy
by increasing the number of Green-Rainbow Party members and candidates in
Berkshire County and by refusing the influence of corporate/lobbyist money.
“Judy Merritt and a group of other Lenox voters got together, drafted the
questions, and requested Berkshire Greens PAC’s support,” Kaplan reports.
“We believe that Lenox voters of all political persuasions are interested in
knowing candidates’ answers to these questions. We will publish the results
after the April 20 candidates’ due date.”
A similar voter education initiative took place during the City of
Pittsfield’s preliminary elections in 2009. Since then, and especially since
the November 2010 elections, county-wide interest in the Green-Rainbow Party
has grown. “We welcome similar sponsorship requests from voters in other
towns and cities all over Berkshire County,” Kaplan continued.
One question simply asks the Lenox candidates, “Do you recycle?”
Another question asks the candidates how they responded to last fall’s
Municipal Services Survey, in which Lenox voters were given the option of
ranking which departments in the town budget should receive greater or fewer
cuts in the event of revenue shortfalls.
Berkshire Greens Political Action Committee will consider endorsing a
candidate who requests it and is either registered as a Green-Rainbow Party
voter or Unenrolled (independent).
Here is related information on the new PAC:
BERKSHIRE GREENS POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE
50 RICHMOND AVE. / PITTSFIELD MA 01201
MICHAEL KAPLAN, CHAIRPERSON – WANDA J. BOEKE, TREASURER
BGs Platform: Ecological Wisdom, Social Justice, Grassroots Democracy, Non-Violence,
Decentralization, Gender Equality, Local Economies, Respect for Diversity,
Personal & Global Responsibility, and Future Sustainability.
Here is the letter sent to Lenox select board candidates:
March 28, 2011
Dear Candidate for Lenox Select Committee:
Congratulations and thank you for the successful effort you have made to
place your name on the ballot for the May 9 Lenox election.
As further described in the [above] press release, Berkshire Greens
Political Action Committee has sponsored an effort undertaken by a group of
Lenox voters to educate fellow voters on the positions of you and your
fellow candidates. We kindly ask you to answer the following thirteen
questions by April 20, 2011, after which we will publicize the names of the
candidates who responded along with the particular answers.
Please let us know if you wish to be considered for an endorsement by
Berkshire Greens Political Action Committee. Candidates who are registered
in the Green-Rainbow Party or who are Unenrolled are eligible for
Lenox Select Committee Candidate Questionnaire
1. How did you respond to questions 2 and 3 of the Municipal Services
Survey that was widely circulated and publicized by the Lenox Select
Committee late last year regarding possible budget cuts and a possible
property tax override? Please use the attached copy to re-record your
2. In what circumstances will you support wind energy generation on the
3. What alternatives to automobile transportation do your support?
4. What health care cost and/or quality solutions will you use your
influence as an elected official to encourage Beacon Hill to adopt?
5. What is your position on the downtown Lenox Farmers Market?
6. Most tax experts agree that property taxes are regressive. What
proposals do you have to make the tax system in Lenox more fair?
7. In what circumstances will you support continued town funding for a
Lenox Economic Development Action Plan?
8. What will you suggest before the EPA when it holds an interactive
workshop with the public in Lenox on May 7 regarding the removal of PCB’s
and toxins in the Housatonic River? What clean-up solution do you favor?
Will/Did you attend the workshops in Lenox on April 5, 6, and 7?
9. Have you had an energy audit performed at your residence and/or place of
business? What has caused your carbon footprint to be higher or lower than
it was at this time last year?
10. Do you recycle?
11. What benefits are there for a regional farm/food system? How would you
start the process of implementing one?
12. On what issues have you made public statements or testimony at town
meetings or public hearings in the last three years? Was your testimony in
favor or in opposition to the issue being debated? How will these positions
inform your public advocacy for Lenox?
13. How did you vote on the 4 ballot questions last November?
1. Repeal of Alcohol Sales Tax ___YES ___NO
2. Repeal Certain Affordable Housing Provisions ___YES ___NO
3. Sales Tax Reduction ___YES ___NO
4. Medicare for All ___YES ___NO
PLEASE RETURN YOUR ANSWERS TO US BY APRIL 20, 2011.
BY E-MAIL (preferred) TO: BERKSHIREGREENS@GMAIL.COM
OR BY MAIL TO: Berkshire Greens PAC
c/o Judy Merritt
203 Housatonic St.
Lenox, MA 01240
WE WILL LEAVE FOR GREENER PASTURES NEXT DOOR, AND WITH THAT, LOVE TO ALL.