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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Widow critical of board’s response

BROOKLINE – A widow who claims a delayed response to her 911 call played a role in her husband’s death is criticizing the Board of Selectmen for a “disrespectful” response to her request for an independent investigation.

“She’s very disappointed with the response, and now we need to figure out the best way to handle it,” said Elizabeth Leonard, the Manchester attorney who is representing Joyce Collins of 41 Mountain Road.

Collins’ husband, James Collins, who was in his 40s, died in the early hours of March 10, 2011, while Brookline police and ambulance services were responding to her call for help. James Collins died of an apparent heart attack.

The police officer on duty, who has not been named, was in Hollis at the communications center when the call came in and drove back to the Brookline police station to pick up the automated external defibrillator before going to the Collins residence.

“The police officer failed to follow department policies, rules, and protocols for a 911 call,” Leonard said. “He was supposed to carry an AED and he didn’t, causing a significant delay.”

Police protocol requires an officer to place the department AED in the cruiser at the start of the shift and to run through a checklist that includes the AED, flares, batteries, weapon, and other items, before leaving the station.

In a Dec. 22 letter to selectmen’s Chairman Tad Putney, Leonard informed the board that the town’s police chief, William Quigley III, “may have failed to properly and thoroughly investigate this matter” and to inform the board and public “with candor.”

Putney responded to Leonard’s letter in a two-sentence note, dated Jan. 23.

“We have received your letter dated Dec. 27, 2011. The Board of Selectmen has taken the appropriate steps and does not intend to take any further action at this time,” he wrote.

Putney has said the officer was disciplined and has taken training, but he hasn’t elaborated about the extent of the discipline.

Leonard said Collins was “very disappointed” by Putney’s response.

“Mrs. Collins feels this is inadequate,” Leonard said in a telephone interview last Thursday. “We were asking for an objective review of what happened. We don’t know what was done, what were the steps they took.”

Leonard said Putney’s response lacks compassion for the family and the assurance that the town Police Department will “make sure this doesn’t happen to other families.”

“It’s difficult when the police reviews itself. What we want is objectivity, a person outside looking in and seeing what happened,” the lawyer said. “They’re in a position where they need to hold the police officer’s actions up to the light of day. That’s what we want – transparency, accountability.”

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