New Bedford Police Chief Releases Video on Department Transparency
NEW BEDFORD — Recently, the transparency of the New Bedford Police Department has been called into question by radio talk show hosts, residents and city councilors alike. New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro posted a video to the department’s official Facebook page Saturday morning responding to some of their concerns and recent incidents in the city.
At the February 25 meeting of the New Bedford City Council, councilors questioned the police department’s sharing of information both with them and with the public. Ward 3 Councilor Hugh Dunn sponsored three related motions, including one co-sponsored by the entire council and which passed 11-0, to invite police officials to appear before the council and provide a weekly crime report.
Cordeiro began Saturday’s video by stating that New Bedford Police do have a daily incident log generated and made available to the public at police headquarters, but that they’re going to make it more accessible going forward.
“Recently, I’ve had a suggestion, which we are going to take, it’s a great suggestion, that we take (the daily) police log and we post it every day to our website,” he said.
Cordeiro said beginning Monday, daily police logs will be available on the department’s website at NewBedfordPD.com.
One of the recent incidents for which the councilors wanted answers was a January 28 incident at the Brickenwood development where the home of a New Bedford police officer was fired upon. WBSM’s Barry Richard first brought the incident to the public over 24 hours after the incident was first reported, and Councilors-at-Large Ian Abreu and Brian Gomes – who chairs the council’s Committee on Public Safety and Neighborhoods – both said they too found out about the incident well after police were made aware of it, and that they found out through rank-and-file officers rather from the police department administration.
Cordeiro said he initiated an inquiry “as to see what we did and how we performed on that incident,” which he pointed out was conducted by administrative services and did not take any detectives away from focusing on the criminal investigation, which he said “is going very well” and that “the detectives are doing a really good job.”
Although surveillance footage led to the vehicle involved being discovered just a few hours later in Fall River, the armed suspect still remains at large 44 days after the incident.
Part of the contention regarding that incident is that officers believed they were not properly notified that an armed gunman was on the loose who had just targeted the home of a police officer. Cordeiro came on Richards’ program the following week to discuss the incident, and stated that a BOLO (Be On the Lookout) went out to all police radios, something he later walked back to Richard and said instead that it was a “terminal message” that was sent to all active computer terminals in New Bedford Police vehicles at that time.
WBSM News requested clarification from Chief Cordeiro on the BOLO issue following the chief's statement to Richard of a "terminal message" being sent out, and if that differs from a BOLO radio call. A police spokesperson sent back the following statement, attributed to Chief Cordeiro:
“A message was issued January 28 at 9:57 a.m. via the department’s electronic messaging system that stated ‘BOLO for (redacted) blue (redacted) stop and hold for questioning detectives. Code 4.’”
Police union president Hank Turgeon appeared on Richard’s program and said a terminal message is not an effective way of warning police officers of a threat, nor would it alert neighboring departments of the fact that a suspect had targeted an officer.
In his video Saturday, Cordeiro went back to his original stance that a BOLO radio call was issued and that neighboring departments were notified.
“That morning (January 28), the Dartmouth Police Department and the Fall River Police Department were notified, and keep in mind that we didn’t come to know about this shooting until five-plus hours later, and we did notify them that morning,” Cordeiro said. “All the protocols were properly followed by our police officers. Officer safety was never in jeopardy by the work that our officers did.”
Cordeiro also addressed the issue of the BOLO.
“Two BOLOs went out, actually three,” he said. “One went out on a mobile data terminal, and then an audio BOLO did go over our police radio, both on Channel 1 and Channel 2.”
Cordeiro then played the audio from that BOLO that went out over radios, which WBSM News has transcribed below:
“Control to all units, be on the lookout for a 2016 blue Jeep Cherokee, Mass. tag 9-Yankee-Tango-5-4-5-3. If found, stop and hold for questioning for detectives. Be advised, Code 4.”
Turgeon had previously told WBSM that “Code 4” is used “to describe a person known to or suspected of possessing weapons or a vehicle or location where weapons may be stored.” It does not, however, indicate the specific targeting of a police officer.
Cordeiro said NBPD officers “did a wonderful job and followed all the protocols, as did our civilian employees, our telecommunicators, and on.”
“And I couldn’t be prouder of the work they did,” Cordeiro said. “And never did they put, or their actions put, the safety of our officers, of our public (in jeopardy). The public safety and officer safety is paramount to me, and to everyone that works here in the police department.”
Cordeiro went on to address a February 22 incident in which the driver of one vehicle opened fire on the driver of another vehicle, in broad daylight, on Rockdale Avenue in broad daylight. Richard obtained video of that incident, which WBSM News has also viewed, and confronted Mayor Jon Mitchell about it on his March 10 program. The discussion led to Richard questioning whether Mitchell feels Cordeiro’s blanket policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations should be revisited and if the public should have been informed of this incident of shots fired.
“I don’t see a need to change the policy of not commenting on pending investigations unless there is a compelling public interest,” Mitchell replied. The conversation eventually became so contentious that Mitchell opted to end the interview.
In his video, Cordeiro reiterated that the information was available to the public through the police log.
“I want to let you know that incident was properly logged on our police log and was available to the public or to the media,” he said. “The investigation in that case, I’m very happy to tell you, is going very well, and we will be closing that very shortly, successfully, and I hope to very shortly come back and inform you that we have somebody in custody.”
Cordeiro also addressed recent concerns about the city’s ShotSpotter gunshot detection system, which apparently was not activated by recent shots fired incidents such as the one at Brickenwood. Dunn also filed a motion recently, again co-sponsored by the entire council, calling for an evaluation of the performance of the ShotSpotter system.
“There’s a lot of buzz about ShotSpotter,” Cordeiro said in his video. “ShotSpotter is just one of many tools that we use in fighting crime. I have recently initiated an assessment of ShotSpotter over the last five years. When that report is done, I will share it with you. After all, this is your money that I’m spending, so you’ll know exactly how well ShotSpotter is or is not doing.”
Cordeiro also addressed the crime rate in the city, which he says has “has been steadily declining in our city for the past five years.”
“Overall crime is 42 percent down. Violent crime has decreased 38 percent over the last five years. And our property crime is down 43 percent in the last five years. And overall, in the last 10 years, crime is down 38 percent,” he said, noting it was according to FBI data.
He said that while part of that success has been the initiatives the department has put in place during his time as chief, he also said community policing is paying off as well.
“The conversations, the information you’re giving us is making a difference,” he said. “You are part of this equation that has led to the success that we have seen, and we need to continue to build on that."
“Five years ago, when I took office, at my swearing-in as police chief, I said it then and I’ll say it again: we are a city of one. And the more that we work collectively together, the greater our successes are," he said. "And we do have to recognize that there will be some pitfalls along the way. But as long as we continue to communicate and stay positive and build on our relationship, then we’ll continue to see successes here.”