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Monday, January 16, 2012

Brookline: Officer got disciplined

BROOKLINE – A police officer who delayed responding to a medical call last year because he didn’t have lifesaving equipment in his cruiser and had to fetch it from the police station has been disciplined and taken training, selectmen’s Chairman Tad Putney said this week.

Putney’s brief public remark came in response to a letter from Elizabeth Leonard, the lawyer representing Joyce Collins of 41 Mountain Road, whose husband, James Collins, died at home March 10 while Brookline police and ambulance services were responding to a medical call. James Collins was in his 40s.

Collins suggested the Police Department’s delayed response could be to blame for her husband’s untimely death.

Further, Collins asked for an investigation into whether the officer failed to follow department policies.

“The town has, and did have, a policy that was not followed,” Putney told the board, adding that as a result of the lapse, “action was taken.”

Later, Putney clarified, saying “an element” of the policy “was not followed.”

“It was investigated and the appropriate action was taken, training and communication occurred” to prevent a recurrence, Putney said.

Neither Putney nor Leonard, a lawyer with Wiggin & Nourie in Manchester, has named the officer.

Police Chief William Quigley III declined to discuss the case, although he confirmed that the officer had been disciplined and put through training.

According to the Brookline Police Department’s written policy on medical assistance and automated external defibrillators, an officer is directed to place an AED in the cruiser at the start of his or her shift, examine it for defects, and check it again at the end of the shift before storing it at the police station. The policy took effect in 2007 and was reviewed last year.

In early October, in a letter to the board, Collins’ attorney asked how the on-duty officer used the department’s AED in responding to the March 10 call that came in to Hollis dispatch at 2:13 a.m.

At the time of the call, the on-duty officer was at the dispatch center, picking up paperwork, according to police reports.

The officer left Hollis, drove to the Brookline police station, collected the AED and drove to the Collinses’ residence where ambulance personnel were waiting.

On Monday, Putney said he planned to write a response to Leonard’s query and would likely send it to her after getting the approval of the full board on Jan. 23. The board will not be meeting Jan. 16, the Martin Luther King Day holiday.

In her Dec. 22 letter to selectmen, Collins’ lawyer Leonard, wrote, “Specifically, the failure of the police department to timely respond to the emergency call with the proper life-saving equipment may have been a significant and contributing cause of Mr. Collins’ death.” And “to compound matters as I have previously informed the Board, Chief Quigley may have failed to properly and thoroughly investigate this matter and failed to advise the Board and public with candor thereby causing further severe emotional distress to my client and her family.”

Leonard could not be reached for comment on this story.

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