NEW BEDFORD — In a direct appeal to the public, the president of the city’s police union has scathingly criticized both Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro and Mayor Jon Mitchell.
In a written statement, Officer Hank Turgeon of the New Bedford Police Union talked of Cordeiro’s “incompetence” and said the mayor had once again “brushed aside” the feelings of an overwhelming majority of the rank-and-file officers. On Dec. 20, the union had presented Mitchell with an undated letter reporting four lopsided votes against the management of the department.
Frustrated with Mitchell, Turgeon’s statement — which was posted on the union’s Facebook page — is now asking the public to demand Mitchell address what they call “the mismanagement” of the department and fire the chief.
“The New Bedford Police Union has made every effort possible to address our concerns internally, but now we ask that the public stand up and demand that the mayor address the mismanagement of their Police Department,” Turgeon said in the statement. “The mayor is completely ignoring the pleas for help from the men and women that serve and protect our city daily.”
Turgeon’s letter also rejected claims by the mayor and the chief that the “no confidence” vote is a negotiating tactic for the union contract. He said that contract has already gone to arbitration. Arbitration is a process used to win a decision when two sides in a union negotiation are at an impasse and have stopped talking. The arbitrator then makes the decision, and the finances must be approved by the City Council.
“The New Bedford Police Union leadership is voicing the concerns of an overwhelming percentage of our membership,” the statement goes on. “The New Bedford Police Officers work for you, the public, as does the Mayor. We are telling you, the public, that Chief Joseph Cordeiro is failing you in his duties, we need your help.”
The following union votes were presented to the mayor at the Dec. 20 meeting.
To the question: “Are you happy with the direction that the chief and deputy are taking this department?” the officers voted 15 “Yes” to 206 “No.”
Asked “Are you happy with the working conditions of this department?” the vote was 13 “Yes” and 216 “No.”
Asked “Do you feel this department’s morale is lower under this administration than it has been under past administrations?” the vote was 201 “Yes” and 21 “No.”
Asked “If you had an opportunity to leave this police department and be employed by another police department, would you go?” the vote was 178 “Yes” and 48 “No.”
Turgeon, in an interview with The Standard-Times, said the union is asking the public to read their concerns on the New Bedford Police Union’s Facebook page and then contact the mayor, the City Council and the media and ask that changes be made.
The union said their concerns have nothing to do with their contract negotiations. “The two issues are separate from one another and this is just another attempt by the administration to deflect the real issues at hand,” the statement says.
The union has been working without a contract since July 2018, when their last agreement with the city expired.
Citing what it called the chief’s “incompetence” and “inefficiency” earlier this week, the union called for Cordeiro’s removal. They demanded he resign, and if he refuses, for Mitchell to remove him from office.
The police union’s attacks on Cordeiro and corresponding criticism by the city’s Fire Department on the Mitchell administration’s longstanding policy of fire apparatus blackouts comes as Mitchell is set to be sworn in Monday to the city’s first, historic four-year term as mayor. Mitchell was re-elected to a fifth term easily in November, garnering 72 percent of the vote.
Jonathan Carvalho, a spokesman for the mayor’s office, described this latest union statement as a reiteration of earlier information released by the police union. He directed the media back to statements made by Mitchell and Cordeiro in September, where the mayor expressed his “full confidence” in the chief and the chief said he is “one hundred percent committed to the City of New Bedford.” In the September flap, the mayor pre-empted the union and issued a press release before the news had gone public.
The union’s statement goes on to quote retired four-star Army general and former National Security Advisor Colin Powell. “The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problem is the day you stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
The union’s latest salvo in its ongoing battle with Cordeiro and Mitchell was emailed to The Standard-Times and is also posted on the police union’s Facebook page. The statement is a follow-up to the Dec. 20 meeting between the union representatives, the chief and Deputy Police Chief Paul Oliveira where the union demanded the chief’s removal.