DA: Montague can’t rejoin task force while Dodge remains police chief

  • Montague Police Chief Charles “Chip” Dodge

Recorder Staff
Thursday, October 26, 2017

MONTAGUE — Montague will continue to be excluded from the district attorney’s anti-crime task force while Charles “Chip” Dodge — who is in recovery for opioid addiction — remains the Montague police chief, according to Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan.

In a letter to Dodge, released by the town on Thursday, Sullivan said the task force’s executive board voted on Oct. 19 to keep Montague out of the regional crime-fighting group that often works on major drug cases.

“Placing a member of the Montague Police Department in the position of answering to both the Montague Police Chief and the leadership of the Task Force, where drug investigations would need to remain confidential from the Police Chief, is untenable,” the letter said. “This risks eroding the command structure of the Montague Police Department or worse, compromising the safety of those people involved in the dangerous work of drug investigations. This would be an unacceptable risk of the member departments of the Task Force and/or of any assigned officer from the Montague Police Department.”

Montague was suspended from the task force when the Attorney General’s Office was investigating possible tampering with the department’s prescription medicine drop box in July 2016. The task force action follows a Recorder story about the AG’s investigation that focused on Dodge because he was recovering from prescription opioid addiction and was the officer in charge of the drop box at the Montague police station.

The AG’s investigation ended without any charges being brought. The District Attorney’s Office reinstated the drug drop box Sept. 27 under specific new protocols that exclude Dodge from handling the discarded prescription medicines.

The task force is operated by the DA’s office in conjunction with the Massachusetts State Police, local sheriffs offices and local towns. Each town that contributes one full-time officer to the task force has a member of the task force’s executive board. That includes Greenfield, Amherst, Belchertown, Athol and Northampton.

When contacted for comment Thursday, Dodge said he had not seen the letter, which was addressed to him and that reached Town Hall on Thursday.

Town Administrator Steve Ellis said the Selectboard and town hope to discuss the vote with the task force leadership.

“The Montague Selectboard received this news with regret and some concern. While we are pleased to know that the Anti-Crime Task Force will continue to undertake investigations within the Town of Montague, we are concerned that the Town was not consulted as its executive committee contemplated this vote. We look forward to engaging task force leadership to better understand the rationale and process by which it came to this decision.

“The Board retains the utmost confidence in the ability of the Montague Police Department to fulfill its mission to protect and serve our community, and to positively impact public safety throughout the region.”

The DA’s letter is a shift from Sullivan’s previous comments in a Recorder story about Dodge’s opioid addiction treatment, in which the district attorney commended the chief for telling his story in the newspaper.

“Chief Dodge is to be commended for his courage in confronting this issue head-on, and we wish him the best in his continued recovery efforts,” Sullivan’s statement said.

When asked Thursday if Sullivan still stands by his previous statements about Dodge, Mary Carey, the district attorney’s spokeswoman, said the office had no comment.