Chief gets 1-year contract extension amid Canton PD audit, Karen Read trial

The majority of the Canton Select Board decided to renew the chief’s contract for only one year in order to let things settle down once the Read case concludes, and so that an audit of the police force can be completed, the chairman said

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As the town of Canton awaits a verdict in the high-profile Karen Read murder trial, supporters of the defendant say its police department needs a shakeup and that Police Chief Helena Rafferty needs to go, even though she wasn’t the chief when the case that's captivated Massachusetts began.

“We need a police chief who’s concerned about the safety of all Canton residents, not just the well-connected townies,” Canton resident Kathleen Howley said.



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A vocal group of Canton residents says the Read investigation was botched and has been asking the town’s select board for months to not renew Rafferty’s contract.

“We need someone from the outside,” said Canton resident Rita Lombardi, who tried to unseat Chair Michael Loughran on the board this spring in part because of how the case was handled.

The select board's agenda for Tuesday night's meeting included a vote on approving a new contract for Rafferty, which they did, but for one year, rather than three.

Before the board voted, several residents urged the select board to fire the chief.

“I think we need to send a message that the status quo is no longer OK,” resident Liza Colburn said.

Loughran said the majority of the board decided to renew the chief’s contract for only one year in order to let things settle down once the Read case concludes, and so that an audit of the police force can be completed.

Tensions were high at a public meeting held Monday to discuss the audit of the Canton Police Department for which residents voted amid the controversy surrounding the Karen Read case.

“We want to get through the trial,” Loughran said. “We want to get the police audit and give her a chance to respond to what the audit finds and take appropriate steps to correct whatever the audit points out.”

The board voted 3 to 1 to renew the contract for a year. Select Board Member Chris Albert abstained from the vote as he was a witness in the Karen Read case.

Patricia Boyden was the sole select board member to vote against a new contract for Rafferty, saying, “While she’s a nice person, part of the force since 1989, it’s just the past two years have been crazy and I think we need someone new and outside to bring this town back.”

Rafferty has not responded to a request for comment.

Also this year, Rafferty was cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk for hitting a person with her vehicle while driving in Wrentham. Weeks later, after the crash was publicly reported, she issued a statement calling the incident "an unfortunate accident," and noting that, "Upon further reflection and considering the amount of attention that has been focused on Canton, I should have issued a statement sooner."

The police chief in Canton, Massachusetts, is addressing a case she's been wrapped up in — and it’s not the Karen Read case, which has divided the town. The chief hit a pedestrian while driving in Wrentham back in February. But she's only just making a public statement about it.

The Canton police audit was approved last year by a 903 to 800 vote, done by hand. It was spearheaded by Howley.

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