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Monday, August 29, 2011

Domestic violence case involving Brookline police chief’s son referred to county attorney’s office

BROOKLINE – The question of whether the town’s police chief had knowledge of a domestic violence incident involving his son and the son’s former girlfriend but failed to respond has been referred to the Merrimack County Attorney’s office, according to a spokesperson for the Hillsborough County Attorney’s office.

On Friday, Patricia LaFrance of the Hillsborough County Attorney’s office said the case has been referred to Marianne Ouellet, an assistant Merrimack County attorney.

Earlier this week, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said her office is “aware of the situation” regarding Police Chief William Quigley III and the Brookline police department and would “determine the proper course,” deciding “what the next step should be.”

Concerns stem from the absence of a police report following a May 19 altercation between Jonathan Quigley, the chief’s son, and his former girlfriend, Nicole Shank. Police reports document four civil standbys following the incident, police actions to keep the peace while a member of the household removed personal belongings.

But there was no domestic violence report, despite police testimony during a June hearing in Milford District Court where a town police officer said the younger Quigley came to the station with red marks on his face, “consistent” with being struck, on the day of the altercation.

Last week, responding to a question from a resident attending the weekly selectmen’s meeting, Chairman Tad Putney said town officials planned to refer the matter to State Police.

But Major Russell Conte, a spokesman for the State Police, told The Telegraph the case would probably be referred to another office because the Brookline chief is a former state trooper.

“We’d make sure there’s not a conflict,” Conte said. “If the chief had been a member of the state police, we’d probably ask to have it vetted by the attorney general’s office or the county attorney.”

During a hearing in Milford District Court, where Shank requested a protective order, Master Patrolman Robert Pelletier, a longtime friend of the chief’s son, said Quigley went to the station after the incident but didn’t want to talk about it or have the officer go and talk with Shank.

Police did not investigate further, even though it appears they had reason: standard police protocol for responding to suspected domestic violence, outlined by the attorney general’s office, directs officers to interview the suspect and victim and follow a checklist of questions about children, weapons, witnesses and more.

In addition, there is a method for presumptive arrest: an officer who has probable cause to believe a domestic violence crime has been committed is directed to make an arrest, even if state law wouldn’t mandate an arrest.

When the altercation between Quigley and Shank occurred, there were three children in the household, two of Shank’s and a third she was babysitting. The couple also had a gun, according to court documents.

In June, during a hearing in Milford District Court, Shank was granted a temporary protective order. Quigley’s attorney, former town selectman Robert Parodi, since has appealed to the court to drop the case.

Asked why the police department hadn’t filed a report, the chief said there had been no request for service following the altercation.

Cell phone records, however, revealed that the younger Quigley spoke with his father and with Pelletier and that he also contacted police dispatch after the altercation.

The chief also declined to provide the newspaper with a copy of the town’s domestic violence policy, saying it had been nonpublic since 2007 to protect victims.

At the August 15 selectmen’s meeting, Chairman Putney said he had learned “in research” that in 1998, a number of residents hired a lawyer to challenge the town’s nonpublic Police Department policies. The town counsel advised, Putney said, that some police policies should remain nonpublic for public safety reasons.

At the time, Thomas Goulden, whom the board fired roughly 16 months ago without giving cause, was the police chief.

“The board has had a conversation about this,” Putney said last week after a nonpublic meeting of the board and the police chief before the regular meeting. “We’ve asked the chief to look at domestic violence, break out the policies, make them public, because I know this is an important topic to many residents.”

The board did not discuss how the town’s police department and its chief handled the altercation between the chief’s son and his former girlfriend or why there was no report or follow-up, as directed by the attorney general’s guidelines.

Furthermore, it’s unclear why a third party, such as the state police, wasn’t called in to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

The Telegraph called Merrimack Assistant County Attorney Marianne Ouelett on Friday, but she did not return the call by press deadline.

Hattie Bernstein can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 24, or hbernstein@cabinet.com.