Former Leyden officer raises concerns over police chief’s emails, conduct

  • GALVIS

  • The Leyden Police Station, located behind Town Hall. Staff File Photo/Shelby Ashline

Staff Writer
Published: 9/17/2021 5:01:43 PM

LEYDEN — During a recent Selectboard meeting where members discussed Police Chief Dan Galvis’ decision not to recommend Sgt. Tina Riddell for reappointment, the officer questioned the chief’s own conduct and shared emails containing off-color “jokes” he had forwarded to officers and town officials.

The Selectboard voted Sept. 7 not to reappoint Riddell based on a string of incident reports, and she in turn raised concerns about Galvis. Her attorney, Michael McHale, shared several emails sent by Galvis between 2014 and 2016, from Galvis’ Hotmail account.

The chief said this Hotmail account has been considered his official work email for the past 27 years. The town just this month created a new email for the chief, chiefgalvis@leydenpolice.com, as well as for his wife, Capt. Gilda Galvis.

Galvis defended his decision to send what he described as “jokes and anecdotes” forwarded to him by a friend who is a sergeant with the Ontario Provincial Police in Ontario, Canada. Recipients of the emails were redacted before McHale shared the emails with the Greenfield Recorder.

“I passed them on to my officers, and I considered (Riddell) a friend back then,” Galvis said in a phone interview. “These are from way back. … If she wasn’t offended by them then, why would she be offended by them now? It’s nothing I feel is derogatory. They were simply jokes and that’s the end of it.”

According to McHale, Riddell “did not open the emails nor have knowledge of their content until October of 2020,” when she felt the chief’s demeanor toward her and treatment of her “took an abrupt and noticeably negative turn once he started questioning her about the additional part-time police work she was then pursuing in Winchester, N.H. After reviewing all emails she had received and saved from Chief Galvis, she forwarded them to McHale.

“She did not believe that she could bring these emails to the attention of the Selectboard or Chief Galvis out of fear of retaliation from them,” McHale said.

During the Sept. 7 meeting, Selectboard member Bill Glabach described the use of the emails in Riddell’s argument as a “character assassination” and questioned their relevance to the current events. Selectboard member Jeff Neipp also interjected, saying that “Galvis is not on trial.”

“Frankly, he should be,” McHale replied.

“The contents of the emails are such that even though the most recent is from 2016, it gives me pause,” McHale told the Selectboard. “These alone should disqualify Galvis from being the police chief of any department.”

One email from Sept. 3, 2015, titled “Immigration alert” contains a photograph as its “punchline” depicting a 1949 Chevrolet car body that appears to be held up by approximately a dozen people whose bare feet are visible as the only means of support for the auto, which lacks wheels.

Another email dated March 3, 2016, titled “How is Tarzan Doing?” includes a still from the 1930s Tarzan film series and the chimpanzee character Cheetah. The character of Tarzan is asked about his companions. In one response, Tarzan replies “Cheetah do good! She marry lawyer, had plastic surgery, now live in White House!” An accompanying image depicts a chimpanzee making a distinctive expression, followed by a photo of former First Lady Michelle Obama giving a speech and captured with a similar expression.

“The obvious ‘joke’ here is highly racist and offensive,” McHale told the Recorder.

Selectboard member Erica Jensen, who was elected to her first term in June, said she planned to ask the town’s legal counsel Donna MacNicol to advise her on the proper ways to address the past emails. While noting the messages were not written by Galvis, Jensen said, “they’re still inappropriate, and nothing was ever done or said about it.”

Speaking after their Sept. 13 Selectboard meeting, members Glabach and Neipp said they had yet to read the emails given to them the week prior.

When asked if the jokes were something he realized now were inappropriate and would not be sent today, Galvis said the emails were from “way before all this changed,” referring to the social climate and attention on policing race relations and the Black Lives Matter movement.

While the emails are only as recent as 2016, Riddell alleges recent behaviors emphasized her concern. While attending training at a firing range with other officers on Nov. 21, 2020, Riddell claims Galvis referenced a silhouette target down-range and asked “What is this, an unarmed Black guy?”

Riddell said she did not speak up at the time and remained quiet, “just feeling sick to (her) stomach that this remark was made.”

Galvis has denied this claim.

“I don’t recall saying that,” Galvis told the Recorder. “I may have said ‘unarmed man,’ but I never would have said ‘Black man,’ because I have a Black officer on the force.”

When asked why he would have referred to the target as an unarmed man in general, he said “it was just a joke,” and “the kind of stuff we do in training.”

“We had an officer years ago, as an example, when the instructor yelled ‘Nun,’ the officer opened fire,” Galvis recalled. “When asked why he shot, the officer said, ‘They had an AK-47, sir.’”

“She didn’t have a problem with it then, so why now?” Galvis continued. “No other officers have voiced issues with it.”

Riddell and McHale contested officers serving under Galvis “did not feel they could challenge him on the appropriateness of such statements for fear of losing their jobs.”

In response to questions of relevance based on the fact the emails are from a few years ago, McHale said he finds it “difficult to see how the sentiments endorsed and expressed in those emails are not still highly relevant considering the source was not only a public servant but also the police chief of the town.”

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.




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