Police chief out following agreement with town

Police chief out following agreement with town

BLACKSTONE – A months-long standoff between suspended Blackstone Police Chief Ross Atstupenas and town officials appears to be drawing to a close after the two parties came to an agreement last week, though town officials remain tight-lipped about the matter for the time being.

Last week, Atstupenas’s wife, Barbara Atstupenas, announced to supporters that the chief had reached an agreement with the town and would not be reinstated to his post. In April, the Board of Selectman accepted a decision by Town Administrator Daniels Keyes to place Atstupenas on paid leave amid an ongoing investigation of the entire Blackstone Police Department. The investigation had been initiated by a vote of the Board of Selectman earlier in the month.

News of the agreement came minutes after the board met in executive session to discuss the matter July 1. A public hearing for Atstupenas had previously been scheduled for the following day in the town administrator’s office, but was canceled following the meeting.

Daniel Keefe, chairman of the Board of Selectman, declined to comment on the matter this week, saying only that the investigation was complete and that more information would become available at a later date.

“The Board of Selectman had an executive session, so until it’s official I really can’t comment,” he said.

The investigation has created a rift between officials and town residents, most of whom have rallied in support of the longtime police chief. Atstupenas, a town resident, has served as chief since 2000 and earned several accolades in that time, including serving as president of the New England Association of Chiefs of Police. Residents at a Board of Selectman meeting in May defended Atstupenas as a dedicated town servant and criticized the board and administrator’s handling of the matter. Signs declaring “We support our police chief,” meanwhile, have continued to crop up around town, reminding officials of the chief’s wide base of local support.

While residents have made their support clear, Blackstone police have doubled down in their criticism of the chief, a tension that is not new. Last July, members of the Blackstone Police Patrolman’s Union took a vote of no confidence in the chief’s leadership, passing the measure by a majority. In May, union President Patrolman David Laudon reminded board members of that vote, saying the union’s position remains unchanged.

Residents had mixed reactions to last week’s announcement, some expressing relief that the parties had come to a mutual agreement while others questioned why residents were not allowed to attend a public hearing on the matter. Several expressed their frustration that the issue has continued to be discussed behind closed doors, with little information available to residents during the course of the investigation.