NAACP wants ex-hockey coach removed from police duties | News
DANVERSE — The North Shore chapter of the NAACP is calling on the city to remove the police sergeant. Stephen Baldassare from his position as supervisor of the city’s school resource officers, saying trust in law enforcement has been ‘eroded’ due to Baldassare’s role as coach of the hockey team school accused of racist, sexist and homophobic behavior.
In a report posted on the organization’s website Thursday night, the NAACP named Baldassare’s son as a “ringleader” of team bullying. He cited screenshots on an anonymous Twitter feed as evidence that his son led some of the conversation and shared messages on the hockey team’s snapchat during the 2019-20 season. Another screenshot from a high school yearbook shows a hockey player passing the “pink dragon” to Baldassare’s son, according to the report. The Pink Dragon was the nickname for a sex toy players allegedly used to beat up other players in the locker room.
The report says the documents have been circulating throughout the community since January 2021 and have “eroded” trust in law enforcement in Danvers.
“Baldesarre’s (sic) multiple roles as a coach, a member of law enforcement, and a parent of behaviorally-related student-athletes raise multiple conflicts and undermine public confidence in the systems responsible for ensuring the public and student safety,” the report said.
The report recommended that Baldassare remain a police officer but be removed from his current position as the department’s community relations/juvenile division/public information officer. Baldassare resigned as a hockey coach last year.
Baldassare and Police Chief James Lovell did not return messages left for this story.
The North Shore NAACP said the 25-page report reflects six months of work by 30 Danvers residents on a committee formed by the organization to investigate the Danvers hockey incidents. The report was produced in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League and with advice from the NAACP New England Area Conference.
In a letter to the Danvers Human Rights and Inclusion Committee, North Shore NAACP Branch President Natalie Bowers said the organization sent the report in December to City Manager Steve Bartha. and Lovell, asking them to adopt his recommendations. Bowers said Bartha and Lovell told the group three weeks ago that they would not adopt the recommendations, so he was asking the Committee on Human Rights and Inclusion to publicly support the report.
During a meeting at City Hall on Thursday night, Bowers asked the Human Rights and Inclusion Committee to vote to support the report’s recommendations. She said the organization also plans to present the report to the select committee.
“We regret to have to share the horrifying testimonies and images included in this report,” Bowers said. “But we know it’s necessary for the city to move forward to deal with these issues.”
Bowers paused and appeared to choke at one point as he read his statement to the committee.
“We stand in solidarity with the students and families who were first abused and then robbed of the dignity of being taken seriously as they simply tried to protect their children,” she said. “Please imagine finding out that your child was abused at school, was taunted with direct images, and then finding out that the authority figure supporting them was denying the abuse and not taking action. “
Committee Chairman Dutrochet Djoko said the committee could not vote until next month’s meeting, but he thanked Bowers and the North Shore NAACP for keeping the issue “front and center.”
“Sometimes it’s exhausting,” Dutrochet said. “It’s something that happened a few years ago. It should be behind us and we should go beyond and do bigger things. But it’s also a reminder that this is how we We can be complacent. Bringing it forward, as uncomfortable as seeing those images again, is a call for us to do more.
The report includes several pages of an anonymous Google document called “the truth”. It includes images of text messages allegedly by Danvers hockey players with racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic comments and imagery.
“Every time I see these graphic images and words, it makes me sick, it makes me crazy, it makes me angry, it makes me sad,” Dutrochet said.
The report also called on the police department and Baldassare to publicly accept responsibility for its role in the situation, and for Baldassare to personally apologize to the community and acknowledge the harm that has been caused.
Additionally, the report recommended that the police department screen applicants to look for evidence of bias or bias before hiring them as police officers; and increasing officer bias and sensitivity training, including hosting a monthly book club on books that help people understand black history.
Editor Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.