GREENFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A protest was held in Greenfield Wednesday in response to police chief Robert Haigh being reinstated. He was cleared of wrongdoing in a separate investigation after a special jury found the police department discriminated against its only Black employee.
Rachel Gordon organized the protest. She was angered after the special jury found retired Officer Patrick Buchanan had been discriminated against, “It was just sort of the last straw. And everything we know about from those court documents about what’s been going on in the Greenfield Police Department for a long time, people are just sick and tired of it.”
Wednesday’s protest was sparked when last week Mayor Roxann Wedegartner announced Haigh would be returning to his role as Police Chief. Residents on the Town Common told 22News Chief Haigh needs to step down.
He was on paid administrative leave since May. That’s while he was under investigation over a conversation that happened in the Hampshire County Superior Court Parking lot in April. A special jury from that Superior Court found the department discriminated against retired Officer Patrick Buchanan on May 6th. Wedegartner said that investigation was separate from the special jury decision in the civil case, so it was not connected to his reinstatement.
“I didn’t come here to have a racist Police Chief and I didn’t come here to live in a town full of racists. And I don’t think the people of Greenfield are racist but I think what we’re seeing in Greenfield is really alarming,” said Elizabeth Deneeve.
However, City Councilors like Council President Gilmour and protesters are expressing concerns over what was unearthed in that case, saying discrimination cannot be tolerated in the department.
Mayor Wedegartner sent 22News the following statement on Wednesday’s demonstration outside City Hall:
“These citizens are exercising their right to assemble, express their opinion and petition their government. That’s a good thing. I even agree with them. Seeking accountability and having a discussion about racism are worthy efforts. That’s why I have asked the City Council for funding of a police department audit which, among other things, is focused on the question of whether or not there is systemic racism in the department. Along with the audit there will be a task force of citizens who will help inform the auditors and ultimately work with the Greenfield Police Department, where possible, to implement recommendations from the audit. So, I hope these same citizens will demand that the Council fund this effort.
In the next few months, I will seek to have the city host a discussion of racism within our community that is guided by trained facilitators. I expect to see these same people attending those discussions. Otherwise, what have they done to be part of the solution?”Greenfield Mayor Wedegartner
Mayor Roxann Wedegartner is not up for re-election in November but protesters said they’re not going to forget when her four year term is up.
“She stood out here last year or the year before and said Black Lives Matter, said no racist police but she’s certainly not acting that way,” said Gordon.
22News has attempted to contact the Greenfield Police Department but did not hear back.