SALEM — The Attorney General’s office has opened a criminal investigation involving current Salem Deputy Police Chief Robert Morin, according to a letter sent to Salem officials.
In the letter dated Thursday, Senior Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward notified Salem Town Manager Chris Dillon and Brian Pattullo, civilian administrator with the Salem Police Department, that the Attorney General’s office is expanding a review into the practices of the Salem Police Department.
The letter refers to a Jan. 14 meeting with Dillon and Pattullo, and a review of documents obtained via grand jury subpoena.
“Based on the information this office has received and reviewed to date, I am now writing to inform you that the Attorney General’s review of the Salem Police Department has expanded to include a criminal investigation of the current Deputy Chief of Police, Robert Morin,” the letter states.
Ward adds that due to the “active and ongoing nature” of the investigation, “I am unable to provide you with any additional information at this time concerning the nature of the criminal investigation. Should the investigation expand further to include other current or former officers with the Salem Police Department, you will be provided with similar notice.”
Pattullo confirmed Sunday that Morin is on paid administrative leave pending the investigation. Capt. Joel Dolan will be the officer in charge, but he is on vacation for a week, so Capt. Mike Wagner will fill in as interim officer in charge until Dolan returns
Pattullo said this is a personnel matter and declined to comment further.
A town-commissioned audit released in November determined the Salem Police Department demonstrated a pattern of mismanaging internal investigations, ignored or discouraged citizen complaints, failed to keep complete records of internal investigations and violated department policies regarding complaints and personnel issues. The report also includes the allegation that some officers, including former police chief Paul Donovan, worked outside details during their paid shifts.
The 170-page report was authored by Kroll Inc., hired by the town via a law firm earlier this year. It is based on the findings of an independent investigation led by Daniel Linskey, former superintendent-in-chief of the Boston Police Department.
The audit recommends a “complete overhaul” of the department’s internal affairs program, as well as other changes to policies and procedures.
In a news release late last year, Dillon stated the town would contract with Municipal Resources Inc. to hire a civilian police administrator to help the department implement Kroll’s recommendations.
“The men and women that work for the police department are dedicated and hardworking. I have met with them and they recognize improvements need to be made and will work with the civilian administrator to address the recommendations identified in the report,” Dillon wrote in a statement.
Donovan tendered his resignation Dec. 6. In a statement released by his lawyer, Charlie Bauer, Donovan agreed to serve the town as chief until Dec. 31.
Town employees interviewed for the Kroll audit said the culture at the department created an environment that resented and defied town authority. Some Salem officers, whose names were redacted, were said to have had an adversarial relationship with the human resources department and Dillon in particular.
Donovan recently resolved two lawsuits he filed against the town.
Lawsuits against the Salem Police Department have cost the town’s insurer $279,806 since 2012, the Union Leader reported last month.
There have been 16 claims over that time period, alleging excessive force, false arrest and other civil rights violations, according to court records and documents supplied in response to a Right -to-Know request. Of the $279,806 the town’s insurer paid out, $186,000 went to settle eight claims. Approximately $30,000 in rewards are still pending.