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Greenfield City Council votes to cut police budget by $400,000 after discrimination verdict

Members of the Greenfield, Massachusetts, city council discuss the police department budget on May 19, 2022.
Greenfield Community Television
Members of the Greenfield, Massachusetts, city council discuss the police department budget on May 19, 2022.

The Greenfield, Massachusetts, City Council has voted to cut $400,000 from the budget for police salaries. Councilors said they wanted to send a message after the department lost a discrimination lawsuit.

In early May, a jury found that Police Chief Robert Haigh and the department racially discriminated against a former officer, Patrick Buchanan, when it denied him a promotion.

Buchanan, who is Black, was awarded almost $450,000. Some residents have called on Mayor Roxann Wedegartner to fire Haigh.

City Councilor Daniel Guin acknowledged the cut would mean roughly eight newly hired officers would lose their jobs.

"I don't want to see the wrong people penalized by losing their employment because they're the newest members of our workforce, but I believe we have to send a message that things need to change," Guin said.

Wedegartner called the vote by the City Council "the height of irresponsibility."

"Do they really believe that that person that is making a domestic violence call doesn't want a police officer and a co-responder to show up?" she asked.

Wedegartner said she is unable to fire the chief immediately.

"I am legally bound to follow the correct procedures for dismissals of city employees," she said. "That's exactly what I am doing."

Wedegartner said investigations of the chief and an officer are under way but they are unrelated to the verdict of the jury.

She plans to call for an audit of the police department to clear the air.

Wedegartner declined to comment on reports the city would appeal the verdict.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.
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