Opinion: Sheriff repeats lies

Jan 2, 2022

To the editor:

Once again, Sheriff Thomas Hodgson of Bristol County is a little selective in his defense of his failings. In his recent response to Betty Ussach’s letter, he attempts to make it appear that the question of his “Pay for the A rating system” is just hers, and a crazy thing at that. However, there are those who are aware of what he hides by repeating the lies.

Remember his claim that the May 1, 2020 riot at the ICE detention center was all on the detainees and he had all the proof necessary to prove that, including videos, only to have the outcome upon review of his exonerating evidence show he had not only been at fault but he had employed excessive force in violation of the established protocols and had violated the civil and human rights of the people he continually presented as inhuman so he could look like the good guy.

The reality was, “The Bristol County Sheriff Office’s calculated use of force included the use of a variety of less-lethal but dangerous weapons — including a flash bang grenade, pepper-ball launchers, pepper spray canisters, anti-riot shields, and canines—against detainees who had exhibited calm and nonviolent behavior for at least an hour before this operation. The BCSO deployed these weapons both indiscriminately upon entry and also specifically against particular detainees who were not combative, assaultive, or otherwise actively resisting staff. Informing our conclusion that the BCSO’s use of force was excessive.”

“The BCSO violated the civil rights of the detainees… by using excessive force against the ICE B detainees and by acting with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious injury or harm to the detainees and their health.”

He denied all this dismissing any criticism as “a political hit job” both before during and after the riot claiming it was just his political enemies who criticized him. All that he had been denying was shown to be reality, and what he had claimed as success was shown to be an utter failure.

As far as the Ash St jail, "activists like Betty Ussach" are in good company.

In 1937, former FBI agent and Bristol County Sheriff Patrick H. Dupuis called the jail “antiquated and a menace” to the welfare of inmates and wanted it replaced. That was 84 years before Ussach wrote her letter.

Hodgson’s immediate predecessor, David R. Nelson, who oversaw the construction of the Dartmouth campus to replace the Ash Street jail, called for the jail’s closing pointing out, “I’ve spoken with the governor for an addition to the Dartmouth jail to close the Ash Street facility, which was supposed to have been done five years ago when we opened up Dartmouth.”

As far as the pay for the A rating system that he constantly claims justifies his actions, he hides the 19-month investigation of the American Correctional Association by Senator Warren’s office that found that the association requires that federal, state, and local governments pay for audits in order to become certified or keep a certification.  

This in itself being a requirement for allowing sheriffs to evaluate themselves, makes the process questionable especially when a surprise inspection by the local Department of Health found violations to the ACA standards that, although obvious, the inspectors missed.

The sheriff’s defense at that time was, “The violations found in the kitchen are minor and will likely be found in any large-scale industrial or commercial kitchen. Any equipment they found not working was repaired and most of the violations were corrected on site right in front of the inspectors.”

If the violations did not exist, there would be no need to have to fix them in front of the inspectors and then brag about that.

The investigation also found that, although the ACA only certifies “the best of the best” according to its website, the list of the best of the best includes virtually every facility that pays its accreditation fees and which is evaluated after getting a three months’ notice of an upcoming inspection and being supplied with preparation tools for audits.

As much as he may want to paint Ussach as uninformed, he relies on keeping the public uninformed to do so. He will reference any good rating no matter how weak, but when it comes to the negative reports, as he very publicly told Attorney General Maura Healey when she issued her office's investigation of May 1, 2020, those go “halfway down the sewer pipe. That’s about how much value I put into the attorney general’s recommendations.

Joe Quigley,

New Bedford