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Police officer has faced 11 internal probes, one lawsuit, and one criminal probe
Matthew O’Sullivan polices Egremont, a town of 1,372
Egremont has a population of 1,372.
Since Matthew O’Sullivan joined the tiny Berkshire County town’s police department in 2019, he has been the subject of 11 internal affairs investigations, one lawsuit, and one criminal investigation, according to records obtained by The Mass Dump and The Berkshire Eagle.
Last year, the Berkshire County District Attorney’s Office determined that O’Sullivan filed a false police report about an August 2020 incident during which a handcuffed woman was knocked unconscious in police custody, as I recently reported. The woman said that officers threw her into a police cruiser, but O’Sullivan and now-former Sheffield police officer Jacob Gonska blamed the woman for hitting her head.
Although the DA’s office concluded that O’Sullivan and Gonska’s reports were “not consistent” with a video of the incident, prosecutors did not file charges. However, the DA’s Brady Review Team added both men to a list of cops whose credibility might be called into question when they testify in court and began disclosing information about the incident to defense attorneys.
Gonska voluntarily left the Sheffield Police Department as a result of the incident even though the department cleared him of wrongdoing, Sheffield Police Chief Eric Munson told the Eagle.
O’Sullivan was not punished even though Egremont Police Chief Jason LaForest told the Massachusetts State Police that the officer had filed a false police report. O’Sullivan continues to work for Egremont.
The Eagle reports that O’Sullivan has also been working part time for the Sheffield Police Department for just under a year, meaning the town hired him around the time he and Gonska were added to the Berkshire County Brady list.
Prior to joining Egremont, O’Sullivan resigned from the Shirley Police Department after an investigation found cause to fire him for kicking a man in the groin in a police holding cell. The incident was caught on video, but the town has refused to release it. The Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing the incident to determine if it impacts any cases, a spokeswoman recently said.
I previously reported that O’Sullivan had been the subject of at least three complaints and one lawsuit since joining the Egremont Police Department. Eagle reporter Heather Bellow followed up on my story and was able to obtain additional internal affairs records documenting seven more investigations.
The complaints against O’Sullivan include allegations of excessive force, violating the department’s pursuit policy, groundless traffic stops, racial profiling, and performing an unusually high number of pat-down frisks. LaForest has often cleared O’Sullivan of wrongdoing, and the officer has faced little to no punishment. In one incident, LaForest gave O’Sullivan a three-day suspension, but an arbiter reduced it to a one-day suspension, according to the Eagle.
One of the newly released documents concerns a use-of-force incident. LaForest wrote that he did not take issue with the amount of force O’Sullivan used but said that the officer’s report was so vague that it was “difficult if not impossible to interpret/review the incident.”
According to LaForest’s report, O’Sullivan wrote that he used “compliance techniques” because a suspect was “actively resistant” and gave no explanation of how the suspect resisted or what techniques the officer used.
“While asking O’Sullivan why the detail surrounding the Use of Force and the suspects [sic] actions were so vague he stated that because last time he did a Use of Force report that was on video he ended up on the Brady List,” LaForest wrote.
LaForest ordered O’Sullivan to update his report with additional information, which the officer reportedly did. LaForest also told O’Sullivan that “his justification for lack of detail are in no means [sic] acceptable.”
In an interview with the Eagle, O’Sullivan said he receives complaints because he is “proactive” and has more interactions with the public than other officers and thus more opportunities to receive complaints.
O’Sullivan told the Eagle that he has been urging LaForest to put dashboard cameras in Egremont police cruisers, saying, “I love them because it protects us.”
O’Sullivan previously told me that he would not agree to an interview because he is “not a media relations officer for EPD.” He has not yet responded to another request I sent after he spoke with the Eagle.
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