Rutland’s police department is coming under increased scrutiny as more internal documents about officer misconduct and disciplinary actions are made public.
The disclosures may help draw back a curtain on the inner workings of the Rutland City Police Department - a department some former officers say has fostered a culture of fear and favoritism for too long.
Chris Kiefer-Cioffi says she’s incredibly proud of the 27 years she spent on the Rutland City Police Department. But she says, “The misbehavior was definitely going on. Supervisors were aware of what was going on and some of the supervisors were even involved in the misbehaving.”
Yet how misconduct was handled, she says, varied depending on who you were - something she believes has not changed much. “The good ol’ boy club,” she says, “is running rampant in that department.”
Kiefer-Cioffi believes former police Chief Anthony Bossi, who retired at the end of 2011, should be held accountable for what occurred under his watch.
But she believes it was Cpt. Scott Tucker and Lt. Kevin Geno, the second and third in command, who fostered an unhealthy atmosphere of favoritism within the department. “If the two of them collectively received a complaint from an officer or a supervisor that they didn’t particularly call their buddy, they would blow that off and just hope it went away."
But she says their approach was different if a complaint was lodged about someone they did not like. “They would do this full-blown investigation and have all kinds of data and information looking to get somebody fired, simply because they didn’t like that person.”
Former Rutland City Mayor John Cassarino says the favoritism issue was raised a decade ago in a survey conducted at the police department when he was leading the city. “And that was one of the things that came back that the officers complained about, that there was a lot of favoritism," he says. "And it was going to be taken care of, that’s what I was told.”
But Cassarino admits, it wasn’t. And he, too, has heard that problems have persisted.
Repeated attempts to reach Former Police Chief Anthony Bossi were unsuccessful.
Lt. Kevin Geno refused to comment for this story and calls to Cpt. Scott Tucker were not returned.
Chief Jim Baker says when he took over in January 2012, he was shocked by the problems he found within the department. But he says the department is taking steps to address them.
The chief says Geno and Tucker did have more power and less oversight in executing internal affairs investigations than they should have, which Baker says is no longer the case. “Since I became chief in 2012, neither the captain or the lieutenant have done anything that would cause me to discipline them," he says. "That does not mean that I have not had conversations with them about what my expectations are, and we’ve had conversations about where they stand in the department and what I need from them.”
Baker admits that “some of those conversations have been easier than others.”
But former police officer Thomas Fuller, who retired in September amid what he calls another trumped up internal affairs investigation, says Baker hasn’t done enough. “People are afraid to do anything, to speak out, to file grievances, to make complaints.”
Fuller served 27 years on the department but was suspended last December for an apparent scuffle with an acquaintance while on duty at the local hospital. According to internal documents, some witnesses described the altercation as disturbing.
Chief Baker called for a criminal investigation, but the state attorney general’s office determined there was not enough evidence to press charges.
As Baker works on repairing the department, allegations of favoritism continue. Top Rutland City police officials, including Baker, were sued earlier this year by former officer Andrew Todd, who alleges he was forced out of his job because of widespread management problems.
Todd left the police to become a state trooper just as Baker arrived in 2012. According to the lawsuit, Todd, who was the only African American on the force, complained several times to supervisors Geno and Tucker about the alleged unethical and racist behavior of two fellow officers.
But the suit alleges that because the supervisors and officers in question were good friends, nothing happened and Todd became the target of retaliation.
Because Todd’s lawsuit is pending in court, no one from the police department would comment.
Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras and David Allaire, president of the Rutland City Board of Aldermen, say they support Chief Baker and the changes he’s making. But Allaire says whether those changes occur fast enough or restore the public trust remains to be seen.