HAVERHILL, MA — A Haverhill police officer, arrested last August on charges related to allegedly striking his girlfriend with a metal water bottle, was recently suspended 45 days by Mayor James J. Fiorentini and given other punishment.
While criminal charges were dropped against Patrolman Carlos Arriaga last January, he still faced discipline from the city for sending “harassing and vulgar” texts and visiting the woman after having been ordered twice to have no contact, according to heavily blacked out documents released after WHAV filed a request for public records.
Besides the suspension, Arriaga is to provide 20 days of punishment duty, meaning he will work on those days without pay.
The Haverhill Police Patrolman’s Association plans to appeal the case to an arbitrator. Union President Rick Welch said he is concerned the punishment far exceeds past disciplinary rulings and could become an unfair precedent for future cases.
Haverhill Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro told WHAV, “The discipline given is dramatically different than my recommendation to the mayor. I am in complete disagreement with the way this entire process has been handled. I understand and acknowledge the mayor’s authority to determine the level of punishment. However, there are certain instances where discipline severity is non-negotiable. Based upon my knowledge and experience this is one of those situations.”
Fiorentini defended his punishment, calling it “fair and reasonable.” He explained it was Arriaga’s first offense, the officer has served 22 years and that he is a military veteran. The mayor said hearings officer David Connolly recommended a 30-day suspension.
An internal affairs investigation, prepared by Capt. Robert P. Pistone last November, concludes Arriaga “flagrantly disregarded” orders. The investigation reports Arriaga was twice served with written orders not to have contact with his girlfriend. The first order was handed to him by Lt. Garrett Sarfde prior to Arriaga’s Aug. 8 court arraignment and the second, written by DeNaro, handed to Arriaga by Pistone after his first court date. DeNaro’s letter also notified the more than 20-year department veteran of his suspension with pay.
Despite the order, according to investigation, a Sept. 29 text message exchange and telephone conversation with the former girlfriend claimed she and Arriaga had “been in contact on and off since the time of his arrest.” At an Oct. 31 hearing on the potential violation of the no contact order, Arriaga refused to answer questions based on the advice of attorney Joseph Padolsky.
Pistone’s report said Arriaga did not carry out orders, violated rules, engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer and was insubordinate.
According to a police report, Sgt. James Keenan was sent to Arriaga’s home Aug. 7 just before midnight, after a woman said she was being “attacked” and “assaulted” by the officer. Arriaga told Keenan he and his girlfriend came home and had a few drinks before going to bed. While in bed, the officer said his girlfriend “started to yell” after he received a Gmail notification. Their fight spilled over into the garage and the couple continued to raise their voices as she sat in the driver’s seat of her car and attempted to drive out. At one point, Arriaga opened her car door, and when items—including a metal water bottle—spilled out, he picked them up, threw them back onto the passenger seat and told her to leave. When the items were thrown, she said, she was struck in the face near her right eyebrow with the metal water bottle.
In her police interview, the 39-year-old woman said the telephone notification Arriaga received was a Match.com alert and that when she attempted to leave, he “was acting all crazy, punching her car windows.”