NEW BEDFORD (WBSM) — The New Bedford Police Union brought forth a vote of no confidence in Police Chief Paul Oliveira, but Mayor Jon Mitchell maintains that Oliveira has his “full support.”

On Friday, October 27, 135 members of the city’s police union cast a vote, with 121 of them (89.6) voting no confidence in Chief Oliveira. Twelve of the ballots (8.9 percent) did not support the vote of no confidence. One ballot was blank, and another ballot was marked with both choices, the union stated in a release.

“We do not celebrate the results of this vote, nor do we celebrate the vote itself,” the union said in a statement. “The results, however stark, unfortunately represent the feelings of a clear majority of our membership and are indicative of serious problems with the appointed leader of the New Bedford Police Department.”

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The union said its members had previously expressed concerns about Oliveira, and that there had been “multiple surveys regarding the leadership of Chief Oliveira” that “had similar negative results.”

“The surveys focused on communication, trust, transparency, morale, as well as one of the lowest-scoring questions: whether the New Bedford Police Department is headed in a positive direction,” the union wrote.

Chief Oliveira declined to offer comment to WBSM on the vote, stating that he wished to hold off until he had a chance to meet with the union.

However, the union is asking for the discussion to go further than just with the chief.

“We hope the city leaders and stakeholders take this information to heart,” the union wrote. “The members of the New Bedford Police Union remain committed to the safety of our community and the safety of our officers.”

Mayor Jon Mitchell, however, dismissed the union’s vote as a “tactic.”

“It’s the same ol’, same ol’ from the union leadership. They orchestrate a no-confidence vote – this time on the heels of a significant pay raise – and they will no doubt accuse anyone who questions their motives as being ‘anti-police,'" Mitchell said in a statement to WBSM. "This vote marks at least the third ‘no confidence’ vote by the union of a police chief in recent memory, with previous ‘no confidence’ votes against Chief Moniz in 2004, and more recently, Chief Cordeiro in 2019. Suffice it to say, it’s a worn-out tactic to gain advantage at the bargaining table – which ultimately does not advance the union membership’s interests. Chief Oliveira has been highly effective in leading the department and has my full support.”

The police union and the Mitchell Administration reached an agreement in July on a new three-year collective bargaining agreement that increased base pay and which will go into effect on January 1, 2024.

Oliveira was appointed chief in June 2021 after becoming acting chief in April of that year following the retirement of former chief Joseph Cordeiro. Oliveira had previously served as Deputy Chief since 2016 and had been with the department since 1992, working as a patrol officer, narcotics detective, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and commander of both the internal affairs Professional Standards Division and the Narcotics Division.

The union had also voted no confidence in Cordeiro in September 2019, and later called for his resignation in December of that year.

Chief Oliveira and the police union were at odds earlier this year over the union using its official Facebook page to report on crime in the city before it came from the department itself. Police Union President Lt. Evan Bielski said the union was “cautioned” about releasing information via social media and called for the department to put out such information in a more timely manner.

City Councilor at Large Brian Gomes, who chairs the council’s Committee on Public Safety and Neighborhoods, pointed out the dwindling numbers of the New Bedford Police Department, as officers have left and taken jobs in other communities, as one of the reasons why the union is losing confidence in Oliveira.

“The New Bedford Police Department vote of no confidence in the chief is a result of many factors,” Gomes told WBSM in a statement. “The number of offices have dwindled down to less than 200 officers, (with) forced overtime and workload. And more importantly, the amount of officers that have left the department. Also, the frustration of the wave of shootings and crimes that once again has hit our neighborhoods.”

Gomes said he has placed a motion on the next city council agenda to meet with the New Bedford Police Union in a public safety committee meeting to discuss the union’s concerns.

Chief Oliveira had reportedly been a candidate for the police chief position in Falmouth earlier this year following the retirement of Chief Edward Dunne, but did not make the final three.

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