Northampton police wrap up probe of High-Five Friday leak

  • Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper fields a question during a meeting in April 2016 at Northampton City Hall held for Ward 3 residents concerned about recent fires in their neighborhood. Beside her is Ward 3 City Councilor Ryan O'Donnell. JERREY ROBERTS

@amandadrane
Published: 4/28/2017 12:13:37 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Some two months after the Northampton Police Department’s High-Five Friday program ended on a sour note, the department completed an investigation into how internal information ended up in the clutches of Turtleboysports.com.

The ordeal blew into the national news sphere after the controversial blog, owned by Aidan Kearney of Worcester, obtained internal documents from the department announcing the demise of the program, which entailed weekly visits by officers in city schools to dole out high-fives.

“Although this information would have been available through a public records request, its release was not in compliance with departmental policies,” Chief Jody Kasper said in a statement released Thursday.

She said there were two pieces of information released in a manner that violated department policies: an email from Capt. John Cartledge announcing a decision to end the program, and a police log item regarding one of the parents who had voiced concerns about the High-Five Fridays program being insensitive to students of color.

The parent’s partner later became the subject of a fiery post by the blog, which dubbed the apparently misidentified parent a “social justice warrior.”

“In this case it was surprising to see an internal email out there in the media, so we wanted to know why that happened, and certainly make sure it wouldn’t happen again,” Kasper said.

Kasper said the investigating officer identified a colleague who sent a photo of the email to “several individuals and that this was the image that later appeared in the media.”  Kasper declined to name the officer, and said he admitted to the breach “early on in the matter.”

“Our understanding of his intent in sending the image was to correct information that was currently being spread through rumors,” she said. “He received a formal reprimand for the policy violations. He made an error in judgment and I believe he realizes that error.”

Kasper said the investigating officer was unable to identify how the police log item was released.

Someone answering questions under the Twitter handle @TurtleBoySports said the information came from an anonymous source.

“Funny that they tried to cover that up and became a national embarrassment,” said the person, declining to identify themselves because “our brand is built on anonymity.” “But instead of fixing their mistake they're going after whistle blowers. Sad day for the truth.” 

Kasper said she would have authorized the two-month internal investigation regardless of whom the information was leaked to.

“Every time we have any sort of policy violation, that’s concerning for us — truthfully, it really doesn’t matter where it went to,” she said. “It’s not supposed to go out that way and we needed to look into it. We are responsible for the integrity of our internal records.”

The demise of High-Five Fridays became an item on since-fired Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s show. O’Reilly lamented that “the crazy people have taken over,” and told Northampton to “toughen up.”

“We are looking forward to putting this matter behind us and moving on in our united mission of providing a high level of professional and progressive police service to our community members,” Kasper said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@gazettenet.com.




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