Credit: Georgina Arrieta-Ruetenik

A database of statewide law enforcement disciplinary records covering nearly 40 years was released last week by the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission to further police accountability. Three Needham police officers and a former officer appear on the list. Their violations range from falsifying time sheets to misconduct while on duty to a felony conviction of securities fraud. The incidents took place between 1997 and 2020.

The POST commission was established as part of the Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2020 to improve policing and enhance public confidence in law enforcement. The reports contain law enforcement agency summaries of sustained allegations and discipline imposed on active police officers.

Needham Patrol Officers Matthew Doukas and William Kelleher, Administrative Patrol Officer William Slowe and former Officer David Forte are listed in the POST category of “Truthfulness or Professional Integrity” for submitting false timesheets in September 2020. Their discipline involved suspension without pay for four days and retraining.  

Needham Police Chief John Schlittler and Deputy Police Chief Chris Baker explained all four officers submitted inaccurate timesheets for overtime related to online training during the COVID pandemic. 

“This was a one-time incident that happened near the end-of-year training,” said Schlittler. 

“During the pandemic we switched to online training that was different than in the past. The timesheets shouldn’t have been done that way, there was a lot of newness and confusion. It’s kind of an isolated incident but when these things come up, we deal with it.”   

Two additional incidents were listed for Slowe, including a “Criminal Conduct” charge in 2001 that resulted in a 30-day suspension, but for which NPD could not provide details due to state confidentiality laws. In 1997 Slowe was listed for “Other Misconduct” and “Conduct Unbecoming” which NPD reported as related to an altercation with a citizen while on duty and resulted in a two-day suspension.

Slowe moved into the role of administrative patrol officer in 2015, a position focused on training, record keeping and firearms licensing. Schlittler said the change was not a result of any type of discipline, but rather because of his proficiency with training.

David Forte was suspended from Needham’s police force in 2022 after a felony conviction for insider trading.

The POST database contains more than 3,000 records from 1984 to January 2023 for 273 Massachusetts law enforcement agencies. The average number of complaints for police departments outside the top three — State Police, Springfield and Boston — is eight, not adjusted for department size. Needham’s four is in the mid-range for towns with comparable populations.

Schlittler does not think the number is significant over the lengthy time frame of the report and feels that making the POST information public is good for police transparency. 

“We have no issues with this being out. As much as we can be transparent, we’re fine with it,” said Schlittler. “We’ve always been open on these types of issues. You need that for trust with the community.

“We are not perfect,” he added. “But as long as we discipline when things arise, that sets the tone that it will be handled and addressed. The officers are good people, they do a lot for this town. This does not take away from the kind of people they are.”

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