Five hours of testimony taken in first day of hearing for suspended Officer Gallo

More than five hours of testimony was taken during the first day of a disciplinary hearing related to allegations of misconduct and violations of department policies against Officer Christopher Gallo, who has been on paid leave since June 16, 2021.

The hearing is set to resume on April 26 at 10 a.m. in the Select Board Room in Abbot Hall with Marblehead Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer presiding.

Attorneys Gary Nolan and Peter Perroni of the firm Nolan Perroni in North Chelmsford are representing Gallo, while Town Counsel Jane Friedman of the Newburyport firm Mead, Talerman & Costa is representing the town of Marblehead.

Gallo is facing discipline up to and including termination on multiple allegations, including that he spent extended periods at home when he was supposed to be on patrol, as documented in photographs showing his police cruiser parked in his driveway.

On June 21, 2021, the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General issued a report of a preliminary review, which prompted Marblehead’s former police chief, Bob Picariello, to put Gallo on paid leave and request that the Select Board convene a disciplinary hearing. 

The OIG’s report indicated that its office had received an external complaint, including four months of surveillance photographs showing a police cruiser parked at Officer Gallo’s home during his shifts.

“Based on the information that they obtained through statements and our photographs, their analysis of the evidence revealed that the Marblehead police cruiser was observed in Officer Gallo’s driveway 104 times in photographs provided for 91 of those times,” said Friedman. “On 19 days, there was evidence of multiple checks in the same night, demonstrating that the cruiser remained at his home for several hours.” 

She added the Inspector General’s Office also found evidence of 14 occasions of Gallo working an overnight shift where he appeared to be home for some duration. 

“In one instance, a cruiser was observed in his driveway for over five hours; in another instance, for over 12 hours well into his morning overtime shift,” Friedman said. “The Office of the Inspector General confirmed with the Marblehead Police Department that Officer Gallo was working patrol on each of the dates at issue. On each of these dates, Officer Gallo had attested on his timesheet that he worked a full regular shift.”

Gallo was placed on paid leave, and a hearing that Picariello requested did not occur before Picariello’s retirement. When Chief Dennis King succeeded Picariello in February 2021, he ordered Sgt. Sean Brady to conduct an internal investigation. Brady was questioned for three hours during the March 29 hearing. 

In Gallo’s defense, Nolan questioned the authenticity of the photographs, suggesting that they could have easily been modified, offering a demonstration of how to modify dates and times on an iPhone. 

Nolan contended that Brady had conducted a thorough investigation into the OIG’s complaint documents, noting that he had failed to identify the source of the photographs or cross-verify the mileage on Gallo’s cruiser.  

Nolan suggested that former officer Tim Tufts may have supplied the photographs in retribution for setting off the chain of events that had led to Tufts’ resignation from the Marblehead Police Department.

On leave for a May 19, 2020, incident in Miller Plaza in which he was initially accused of using excessive force, Gallo used the ruse of having Officer Andrew Dimare retrieve a bag from his locker to confirm a rumor that Tufts had used an empty, flattened can to scratch a swastika in the hood of Dimare’s car.

In an email to then-town counsel, attorney Nolan referenced the swastika incident to raise questions about the credibility of Tufts’ and another officer’s accounts of the Miller Plaza incident.

Not only did Gallo raising the swastika incident lead to Tufts’ resignation, but it also prompted the Police Department to supplement its initial report on the Miller Park incident to “exonerate” Gallo of the allegations of using excessive force and being untruthful. He was still reprimanded for failing to respond to multiple radio dispatches for his assistance.

During his testimony, Brady acknowledged that many in the police department suspected that Tufts filed the OIG complaint against Gallo. Still, Brady underscored several times that he was not tasked with determining the source of the photographs, as that was irrelevant. 

Nolan also found fault with the town for waiting nearly two years before convening a disciplinary hearing. He argued the town had a due process obligation to conduct the internal investigation within a 30-day window. 

“Nine months [passed] before they did anything about it,” he said. “The department didn’t investigate this case like they would a criminal case.” 

When Detective Theresa Gay testified, the hearing pivoted to a second case in which the town alleges that Gallo exercised “poor judgment” during a domestic dispute with his girlfriend on July 26, 2021. 

“Officer Gallo’s girlfriend made allegations that he had assaulted her, her children and her dog,” said Friedman. “Officer Gallo’s children were present during the incident as well as the events leading up to the incident.” 

As a result of the incident, Gay — as a mandated reporter — filed a report with the Department of Children and Families so that it could investigate, Friedman explained.

During the Marblehead Police Department’s investigation into the incident involving Gallo and his girlfriend, “it became evident that his girlfriend, who at the time was residing with Officer Gallo, suffered from substance abuse disorder and that Officer Gallo’s children were uncomfortable being around her while she was under the influence of alcohol,” Friedman explained. 

The department’s investigation did not find evidence of an assault but determined that Gallo used poor judgment when he drank alcohol with his girlfriend and allowed her to operate a boat with his children in it while knowing his girlfriend was drinking alcohol and had possibly taken an anti-alcohol medicine, Friedman said. 

On the day in question, the couple took the boat to Gloucester, where they consumed more alcohol before returning home, “thus exposing his children to her erratic and intoxicated behavior,” Friedman continued. 

During the investigation, Gallo left out important details and downplayed the severity of the situation, as well as his own role in the events that led to the police being called to his home, according to Friedman. 

Between the two alleged incidents, Marblehead Police allege that Gallo violated several department policies, including:

  • Conduct unbecoming of an officer.
  • Professional image.
  • Devotion to duty.
  • Cooperation with investigations. 
  • Falsifying records. 
  • Off-duty use of alcohol. 

Nolan depicted Gallo as a model police officer who has acted with honesty and integrity. The lawyer held up a stack of 700 police log entries, illustrating that Gallo had consistently responded to calls within two to three minutes. He mentioned a time when Gallo helped a woman bury her dead dog in the middle of winter.

Through a public records request, the Marblehead Current received a history of disciplinary actions taken against officers in the Marblehead Police Department, which the town was required to submit to the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, as part of the state’s new certification process for law enforcement.

The document showed that Gallo had, by far, more “sustained” complaints against him — 11 — than any other Marblehead officer. In addition to seven suspensions, Gallo has received four reprimands during his 22-plus-year career on the Marblehead force.

Gay was questioned for about 45 minutes, and her testimony had not finished before Kezer concluded the first day of testimony. King, Gallo and one other unidentified witness are expected to testify. 

If the process mirrors the one used in 2010 with allegations of misconduct against then-Sgt. Marion Keating, Kezer will make findings of facts and propose possible sanctions, but it will be up to the Select Board whether to adopt both those findings and the recommended penalty. 

Kris Olson, who wrote in depth about this case in February, contributed reporting and writing to this story.

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