Petition formed in response to Leyden police chief’s surfaced emails

  • GALVIS

  • A petition calling for the resignation or termination of the police chief has received 88 signatures and sparked roughly two hours of discussion during Monday’s Leyden Selectboard meeting, pictured, after emails forwarded by the police chief to other officers and town officials between 2015 and 2016 containing joke-chains with racist content surfaced earlier this month. Staff Photo/ZACK DeLUCA

Staff Writer
Published: 9/28/2021 5:22:34 PM

LEYDEN — A petition calling for the resignation or termination of the police chief has received 88 signatures and sparked roughly two hours of discussion during Monday’s Selectboard meeting after emails forwarded by the police chief to other officers and town officials between 2015 and 2016 containing joke-chains with racist content surfaced earlier this month.

The emails sent by Police Chief Dan Galvis were brought to light following a Sept. 7 meeting when Selectboard members discussed the chief’s decision not to recommend Sgt. Tina Riddell for reappointment. Riddell, who was not reappointed, in turn questioned the chief’s own conduct and shared several emails Galvis had forwarded from what was considered his official work email.

A potential hearing to discuss the emails has been scheduled for Oct. 18. Selectboard members noted that it is Galvis’ right to decide if the hearing will be held in public or executive session.

At the advice of legal counsel, Galvis was not in attendance Monday.

Petition

While the petition collected 88 signatures, resident Sara Seinberg said other residents did not want to sign their name out of fear for retaliation from the chief or his wife, Gilda Galvis, who is also the Leyden Police captain.

“Unbiased application of the law is the primary function of law enforcement and according to this reporting, this function has been irrevocably corrupted,” Seinberg said, reading aloud the petition, which she initiated.

The petition requests the board document a process for police review and oversight for present and future town administrations. The Selectboard, Seinberg said, “holds the power vested in them by the community, whom Chief Galvis has sworn to protect and serve, to perform oversight of that duty” and “it is the responsibility of the Leyden Selectboard to take action and assure the unbiased, just and competent functioning of the Police Department.”

Seinberg said “this is now an issue of an entire culture of bias within the force that has been disseminated from the top.” Because these emails were distributed to all reporting officers, the petition requests a plan for the entire police force — including Capt. Galvis, who was copied on each of the emails in question — to participate in civil rights and racial bias training.

The petition also states that Galvis appointed himself as Leyden’s civil rights officer, a position Gov. Charlie Baker asked each police department in the state to institute in 2018. The petition requests the Selectboard appoint a new officer to this post, and see that they complete required training.

Seinberg also stated that current Selectboard Chair Jeff Neipp was included in the email recipients from 2015 and 2016, and she questioned comments he and Selectboard Bill Glabach made earlier this month that they had not read the emails when they were sent, nor after they were presented on Sept. 7. Neipp said Monday that he did not recall having received the emails when they were originally sent, and they were not brought to his attention before this month.

“I am left to assume that you either did read them and did nothing, or you truly didn’t read them and are ignoring emails from the official account of our chief of police even as you are tasked with oversight of his performance,” Seinberg said. “In addition, on Sept. 7 when the emails were presented here, Selectman Glabach said, ‘These are a character assassination.’ I submit today that these documents do not assassinate character, they reveal it.”

The petition concludes, “Chief Galvis cannot be allowed to continue in this position and to misuse his power with impunity,” and “there must be oversight by this body and the road to restoring the idea of community policing here in Leyden must begin.”

“I know as a Jew and as a queer woman, that these kinds of representations in the hands of power hurt us all,” Seinberg said. “These are not jokes. These are our neighbors. These are people that police are pledging to serve, and to protect. That should be a sacred and serious undertaking for every officer and a pledge to every Leyden resident.”

Residents’ comments

Resident Barbara Wallace, a former Selectboard member, said she was upset by the content of the emails, but she was having a hard time putting Galvis “up on a fire pyre.” She said the emails do not represent Galvis’ entire character.

Wallace and Neipp both said there were private and personal issues that Galvis helped town residents with, which were not discussed in public and they only knew of from their time on the Selectboard.

Others in attendance agreed that the emails may not represent Galvis’ whole person, but said his decision to disseminate the “racist and offensive contents” to other officers and town officials should be “disqualifying” for a position of power.

“We don’t need to throw our neighbors on the fire,” Seinberg said. “What we need is a new police chief.”

“I agree it doesn’t make Dan all bad, but this, I believe, is disqualifying,” said Finance Committee Chair Ginger Robinson.

Resident Jack Golden said he signed the petition because he wanted the Selectboard to take its oversight duties of the Police Department seriously. He said he was troubled that the matter was not brought to light when the emails were sent in 2016. Golden said “this is a chance to be proactive, and make something good for all of us out of this,” and suggested town-wide anti-bias training for police officers and town employees.

Glabach said he was upset by the content of the emails, but he and Neipp both said Galvis deserves the chance to discuss the matter during the Oct. 18 hearing. Regardless of potential disciplinary action or resignation, Glabach said the town will likely have a hard time finding someone to fill the “24/7” police presence Galvis has provided for a $7,000 annual stipend.

Selectboard member Erica Jensen, who identifies as a queer woman and who was elected to the Selectboard in June, said she is “not at all in favor of cancel culture” but “cannot abide” the emails, whether they were sent in “2005, 2015 or today.” She argued there needs to be accountability.

“Racist emails, misogynistic emails, xenophobic emails are not acceptable to me — not now, not ever,” she said. “I do have zero-tolerance. However, I work with two other Selectboard members and I want to hear Dan talk. I want to hear him explain what he’s done over the last 30 years. He has supporters, he has detractors — I get that…”

Jensen said she was not willing to fire Galvis on Monday without the chance for discussion, and said it is important the town has the chance to ask Galvis “direct, open and honest questions,” and let him respond at the Oct. 18 hearing.

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




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