Today we share some Greenfield news which surprisingly has not been reported on in the press. The storyline we share has been confirmed as factual, although the story is still developing. Also note that City Council meets this Wednesday, March 15, 6:30pm, in person at John Zon Center & over zoom. Agenda & zoom link here.
Long story short: Greenfield police chief Robert Haigh is on leave and seeking “injured on duty” status because of “stress.”
This news follows two weeks in which Haigh skipped two important meetings without notice to anyone, including one meeting he personally called. The first meeting was on March 3, called by state senator Jo Comerford to discuss shift coverage and other issues relating to GPD. This meeting included state rep. Natalie Blais, colonels of the state police, a representative of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety, Greenfield Police Deputy Chief Bill Gordon, and the mayor. Haigh was supposed to attend but did not show up, taking part only briefly by speakerphone when Deputy Chief Gordon called him.
The second meeting Haigh skipped was Monday, March 6. The chief had called an urgent meeting of the statewide association of chiefs of police, purportedly because he had some questions for them (we don’t have confirmation of the reason for the meeting). The meeting convened but again Haigh was absent with no notice to anyone, including Deputy Chief Gordon. The president of the association asked Gordon where Haigh was, and Gordon didn’t know. The president told Gordon to get Haigh on speakerphone. When Gordon did reach Haigh, Haigh encouraged Gordon to handle the meeting himself. The president objected and said Haigh should stay on the line. Haigh said that was not possible because he was getting on a plane to Florida.
Apparently without informing either the mayor or Deputy Chief Gordon, Haigh tried to put himself on injured on duty status. This was news to everyone, although rumors have circulated since January’s city council meeting that Haigh was planning on quitting in March. Supposedly the mayor and chief worked out an arrangement Haigh will be on vacation/leave for the month of March, during which time he will go through the state-level board process and get the three separate medical evaluations required to be considered for IOD status. If he is approved for IOD status, Haigh is likely to retain his current salary, paid for by Greenfield’s taxpayers, without having to work.
This turn of events is ironic but unsurprising, considering that Haigh has attempted to play the victim ever since the jury issued its verdict that he committed racial discrimination. As we’ve seen across the board with police, Haigh continues to find ways to try to avoid responsibility for the harms he has caused. Anyone would agree–it’s probably very stressful to have lots of people calling for you to face accountability for your harmful actions! But that doesn’t make Haigh the victim, and he certainly could have made it a lot less stressful (though less lucrative) if he had resigned earlier.
There is so much to say at this point that it’s hard to know where to begin. We’ll close with a couple of our own takeaways from this on-going saga:
- After a year-long saga of on-going litigation in the Buchanan lawsuit, a three-month paid leave for Haigh, and now likely some kind of large payout to Haigh, this city is spending absurd amounts of money on this police department–all money that could have been spent on non-police programs that actually keep folks safe and meet people’s needs: housing, civilian crisis response, harm reduction programs, peer support programs… (Did we mention that Haigh also gets paid a “body camera stipend” on top of his $150k base salary, even though he’s the chief and unlikely to ever wear a body camera?)
- Haigh was the “good liberal cop” who always talked about “community policing”…until he wasn’t. People complained in private about his bullying and other toxic behaviors for a long time, and now we’ve gotten to see them on full display, not least at the January council meeting where he gloated that he was ending the midnight shift (an obvious stunt to get revenge on city council). Haigh’s shapeshifting performances provide a good reminder that even “good liberal cops” are part of an institution that reserves for itself the right to punish, hurt, and exact control over the public.
Where things stand
The truth is that one way or another, Haigh is likely to get a payout, in addition to his already significant salary. He’s also unlikely to return to duty now that he’s on leave, so his tenure as chief may be drawing to a close. *sigh*
The mayor continues to support and enable Haigh. The mayor has only appointed public safety commissioners who have loudly supported Haigh and opposed the city council’s cuts to the police budget.
The mayor and Chief Haigh will not be at the March city council meeting this Wednesday, March 15. The mayor is reportedly undergoing a medical procedure.
As always, if you have questions or concerns about this turn of events, we encourage you to make your voice heard at the city council meeting or by emailing councilors. Just make sure to email the mayor too.