PROVINCETOWN, MA – After months of controversy and complaints regarding Police Chief Jeff Jaran, the selectmen voted before a packed meeting room Thursday night to suspend him with pay.
Selectmen named Lt. James Golden as the acting chief.
The suspension vote came after a bombshell letter from the Provincetown Police Labor Federation New England Police Benevolent Association, the police union. It stated that the overwhelming majority of the union members gave the chief a no-confidence vote in an emergency meeting Wednesday.
The letter stated that members of the union could not condone behavior by the chief of police that included ordering police officers into The Squealing Pig pub to collect names of employees and patrons who were present when the chief objected to an employees exercise of their First Amendment rights to play music of their choosing.
The Squealing Pig on May 7 was where Jaran ran into trouble for his angry reaction to a song with anti-police lyrics by the rap group N.W.A played on the sound system.
People complained that Jaran, who was off-duty, was intimidating in his angry outburst.
The Board of Selectmen have since hired an independent investigator to look into the incident.
The letter also stated the union members did not condone other behavior by the police chief, including ethical violations regarding the undue influence on employee votes in recent elections, including the distribution of campaign signs from the police station.
The letters also raised objections to the chief’s treatment of a union member who was sexually assaulted in the police station by an officer.
Andrea Poulin, a former police department employee, has filed a sex discrimination complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. She alleges that a former Provincetown police officer grabbed her breast in 2012. She further alleges that Jaran failed to take seriously and remedy the sexual assault by Patrol Officer Nathaniel McConatha, who no longer works for the department.
Jaran has denied the charges listed in the MCAD suit in an email to the Times.
The union letter stated Jaran failed to fully investigate and to document the crime, and then protected the offending officer, which included a positive job recommendation to other police departments.
Painfully loud applause followed the reading of the police union’s letter.
Thursday night’s special meeting, scheduled to discuss the suspension of the police chief, brought out so many people it had to be moved to the auditorium upstairs, where the crowd appeared to equal that of some town meetings.
Many thanked the police union for its stance.
“That took tremendous courage,” said Jen Cabral, a resident, who also thanked the selectmen for listening to the citizens’ complaints regarding Jaran.
Others, however, supported Jaran and called an earlier meeting on Monday, a lynch mob.
On Monday, people lined up at microphones to complain about police intimidation under the current chief.
That meeting, said Rob Tosner, a local businessman, amounted to a lynch mob run amok.
Tosner went on to say, “It’s sad that (Jarans) fellow officers couldn’t stay by his side.”
And he said to Selectman Thomas Donegan and Selectman Erik Yingling, who have been critical of Jaran, you are dividing this town.
“This is an ugly state of affairs … now you think you’ve won the battle,” Tosner continued. “But what you’ll be left with is a bunch of malcontents … you’re really discouraging good people from working for this town.”
“I think it’s a good day in Provincetown, and I want to disagree that Monday’s meeting was mob rule, countered Howard Birchman, a resident. “If that’s mob rule, then so is town meeting.”
“Given the police union’s stance, no way can the chief return to his position,” Birchman added.
Jaran, who was not at the meeting, may appeal his suspension under the rules of the town charter.
During the suspension, an investigation of The Squealing Pig incident will be completed. The union’s accusations will be added to the scope of the investigation, said Town Manager Sharon Lynn.
From The Cape Cod Times