He left a motorist shaking and irate after stopping her for driving just under the speed limit in the Route 3 passing lane. He allegedly pepper sprayed a man who was already restrained in handcuffs. He ordered a subordinate to remove from a police report the name of a teenager stopped for alleged drunk driving, complaints alleged.
Over the course of his long career, Plymouth Police Sgt. Scott Vecchi was repeatedly accused of rudeness, bullying, and harassment, according to internal affairs complaints obtained by the Independent through a public records request.
But the town never really disciplined Vecchi until 2022, when he was placed on paid leave pending an investigation into a new complaint. He remained out of work until his retirement in December, eventually collecting more than $280,000 from the town, according to payroll records.
Some of the complaints came from Vecchi’s fellow officers. For instance, he posted inappropriate comments and photos on Facebook, including a meme of a giant rat in a police hat — an apparent reference to the threat “Snitches Get Stitches” — after another officer complained about him.
A 2022 outside investigation commissioned by the town found that he “abused, belittled and demeaned” subordinates, calling some “retarded” or “stupid.”
In all, more than 30 civilian and internal complaints have been filed against Vecchi since he joined the department in 1997, according to police records, though he has consistently denied doing anything wrong.
Vecchi, 54, declined comment for this story.
His lawyer, Christopher Wurster, said Vecchi “is proud to have dedicated over 25 years of service to the Plymouth Police Department. His passion for and commitment to police work are evident from his long career, which included his teaching [a] department-wide course on use of force.”
His early retirement, Wurster said, “is a loss to the Town of Plymouth.”
The majority of complaints against Vecchi were either not sustained or an investigation exonerated him of wrongdoing. A finding of “not sustained” doesn’t mean the allegation is false, but that it could not be independently corroborated.
For example, Vecchi acknowledged stopping the woman in 2008 for driving too slowly in the left lane on Route 3 – two or three miles an hour below the 60 miles per hour speed limit – and that she became distraught. But her allegation that he was belligerent and rude wasn’t sustained because there were no witnesses.
Only one complaint against Vecchi was deemed “unfounded,” meaning that an investigation concluded the alleged conduct didn’t occur.
At least 11, however, were sustained.
But he faced no consequences until 2021 when he applied for a promotion — and his history finally caught up with him.
Vecchi, who is a lawyer and elected member of the Plymouth Redevelopment Authority, was the top scorer on a promotional test and in line to be appointed captain.
Then-town manager Melissa Arrighi, the decision maker, was prepared to make him an offer when at least one elected official, and other police officers, came forward to oppose his promotion, citing recent complaints.
After re-interviewing him, Arrighi appointed someone else to the captain’s post.
In a recent phone interview, Arrighi said she believes she made the right choice.
“When I look back at my decision to bypass Vecchi, I stand behind it,” she said. “I think I made the right call.”
But Vecchi did not take the rejection well. He lashed out at those he believed torpedoed his chances, claiming he was a victim of dirty tricks by political rivals. He accused two officers of discriminating against him, but an outside investigation failed to substantiate his charges.
He filed complaints with the town, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and the state civil service commission, alleging he was targeted because he was a disabled veteran.
Vecchi served as a Marine, on active duty and in the reserves, for a total of 19 years. He was a scout sniper in Iraq, his lawyer said. Vecchi suffered from blood clots and other conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, according to an affidavit filed with the MCAD.
In documents filed with that agency, he downplayed the complaints, calling them “instances of alleged past minor discipline.”
He called the reasons the town gave for denying him the job “baseless and pretextual” and “literally cooked up after the fact.”
“I view my profession as a calling,” he wrote in an MCAD affidavit. “I have a passion for training and not only seek it out for myself — I am the highest trained officer in the department — but I am passionate about training other law enforcement personnel as well.”
In their response, town officials cited “numerous job performance issues that display a concerning lack of judgment,” such as in 2014 when Vecchi, who owned a taxi company, interfered when one of his employees was arrested.
They also mentioned a 2018 incident, when he improperly seized the phone of someone who appeared to be recording Vecchi while he was arresting him for drunk driving.
Vecchi filed — and lost — two appeals with the civil service commission, which found the town was within its rights to bypass him for captain’s promotion.
“Notwithstanding (Vecchi’s) commendable background, including his extensive education and distinguished military service, his conduct, over a period of years, paints a picture of someone who too often lacks the judgment and temperament to serve in a command-level position in a local police department,” commission chair Christopher Bowman wrote in the February 2023 civil service decision.
But Bowman also cited the “troubling behavior of numerous town and county employees and office holders who sought to interfere with the promotional process with the singular focus of undermining (Vecchi’s) candidacy.”
In 2022, while Vecchi’s complaints with the MCAD and civil service commission were being investigated, the town finally disciplined him. He was suspended for four days in April 2022 after he showed up late for a paid detail.
And in June 2022 he was placed on paid administrative leave after the town initiated the investigation into his alleged harassment of subordinates.
But by May 2023, the town decided that, rather than fight to uphold the bypass decision or defend itself against a possible lawsuit, it would settle with Vecchi.
In return, Vecchi would withdraw his MCAD complaint and retire.
The town paid Vecchi $75,000 on top of unpaid wages, vacation, and sick pay – a total of $283,981 for the 18-month period between June 1, 2022, and December 20, 2023, when he was on the payroll but not working, according to records.
The town also agreed to retroactively declare that he had been out injured with PTSD for the 18 months he was on paid administrative leave. By law, payments for on-the-job injuries are not taxed.
And the two disciplinary actions were reduced to written reprimands.
Town Manager Derek Brindisi didn’t explain why the town settled Vecchi’s case, or why Vecchi faced no substantial punishment during his long career.
“I cannot speak to any discipline or perceived lack of discipline prior to my arrival,” said Brindisi, who became town manager in March 2022. “But what I can tell you is that this administration takes very seriously any misbehavior or allegations of misbehavior, and by virtue of the reports that are now in your possession, I believe your research would support the same.”
When he was a captain himself, current police Chief Dana Flynn opposed Vecchi’s promotion, according to the civil service commission’s ruling. Flynn said that since he became chief in 2021 “all complaints against officers [have been] treated seriously, investigated thoroughly, and appropriate action, if required, is taken.”
“One officer’s actions should not be the barometer used to measure the actions of the other 126 Plymouth officers who come to work every day and conduct themselves in an honorable and professional manner,” Flynn said.
It’s no surprise that Vecchi felt he earned the captain’s job. Besides his extensive police training, he holds a law degree and a master’s degree in criminal justice. A Plymouth native, he has been actively involved in town and county government and has run for public office several times.
He has some enthusiastic supporters in town, including Jeff Cohen, owner of One Stop Painting and Renovating and president elect of the Rotary Club of Plymouth.
“I’ve known him since high school,” said Cohen. “I know his work as a police officer was a tough job…Unfortunately, he had to retire early. But he’s a good person, a good friend, and a phenomenal police officer, from what I have seen.”
If Vecchi’s superiors over the years considered him a liability, they didn’t do much to let him know.
Despite the steady stream of complaints, he was never really punished or ordered to change his ways, internal police records show. He received reprimands in 2014 and 2020, according to the town’s response to Vecchi’s MCAD complaint.
Even when a complaint was sustained, such as in the case of the time he ordered a subordinate to change a police report in 2005. Vecchi was simply informed by then-chief Michael Botieri that “this type of behavior was unacceptable, and it should not happen again,” according to records. His co-workers at the time believed that Vecchi knew one of the teenagers involved in the incident, according to the complaint records.
That’s not unusual, according to Howard Friedman, a lawyer who specializes in police misconduct cases. Internal affairs complaints frequently go nowhere, he said. But it means that the town could have ultimately lost a lawsuit had Vecchi decided to sue over his denied promotion.
Friedman, a Boston lawyer who has represented thousands of victims in civil rights cases against police and correction officials, said a municipality would have a hard time defending a decision to refuse a promotion based on complaints if it had never punished the officer in any meaningful way.
“If you don’t discipline them, the person can keep doing it and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be promoted,” he said. “You have to do the work and build up the case as it is happening.”
But Friedman also said it was “extremely unusual” for a single police officer — especially a supervisor — to have so many complaints on file.
“Most cops in their career get one — maybe three,” said Friedman. “To have 30 complaints puts you at the high end of almost any department.”
“Most civilians really don’t want to complain about police,” Friedman added. “It was up to the management to stop it.”
Even now, Vecchi’s name is not posted on the website of the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training agency which documents misconduct by police across the state. The Plymouth Police Department says it provided documents to the agency, known as POST, earlier this year. A POST spokeswoman said the agency’s website is not up to date.
The 2022 investigation into Vecchi’s treatment of subordinates – conducted for the town by Matthews & Matthews LLC and commissioned only after Vecchi filed his MCAD complaint — substantiated abusive treatment of three subordinates.
The investigation, Wurster, Vecchi’s lawyer, charged, was launched “in retaliation for his challenging what had been done to him.”
When investigators asked Vecchi if he had ever been called out for using the term “retard” at work, he said he had discussed it with then chief Michael Botieri via text message.
“There was never anything written… The whole thing ended in a big joke,” Vecchi told investigators. “I told Chief Botieri I’ll try not to say ‘retard’ anymore. And it became a big joke and at the end of it Chief Botieri called me a f-in retard. So, there was no reprimand. There was no — nothing in writing.”
Botieri said it was “unequivocally untrue” that he joked about the use of the word “retard.”
“That’s ridiculous. I would never use that word jokingly,” he said in an interview. “I never said it to him. I had very high standards and officers knew if there was a complaint and they did something wrong, they would be held accountable.”
Botieri said that during his time as chief, Vecchi was removed from some positions, though he couldn’t remember if the moves were made in response to complaints.
In interviews with the investigators, Vecchi called his remarks to underlings “joking banter” intended to help them become better police officers.
He said he used the term “retarded” to mean dumb, not someone who is mentally handicapped. He said he’d heard “almost every supervisor at the Plymouth Police Department use it in that manner.”
He also said, according to the investigative report, that when he was starting out “we were called far worse,” adding that he has tried to adapt to the ways of the newer generation of officers but “occasionally my old 30 years of policing comes through.”
The report detailed several officers’ complaints about Vecchi’s alleged demeaning and abusive behavior — like when a patrolman offered to get gas for a woman and a young child who were stranded in a vehicle on Commerce Way. “Sergeant Vecchi called him on his cellphone and said what the f – do you think you’re doing?” the unnamed officer quoted Vecchi as saying. “We’re not f-in AAA. You can’t f-in do this.”
“And every time I tried to speak” the officer told investigators, “I was just totally cut off. Cussin, swearin. He (Vecchi) said “unf— this now” and hung up the phone.” Vecchi told investigators that the officer’s plan to use the woman’s debit card to buy gas “was very inappropriate …and exposed him and the department to liability.”
Another officer, asked to recall when Vecchi called him a “retard,” told investigators, “Probably almost anytime he talked to me. It’s like the first thing out of his mouth.”
And there was the female officer who tried desperately to save a drowning man at a pond in June 2021 by administering CPR for nearly six minutes.
When Vecchi arrived at the scene, he didn’t thank her, she told investigators, but yelled at her for covering the victim with a blanket. “Vecchi just made (her) feel useless,” the report said.
The officer said “she was wet and covered in sand, and when she said she needed to go home to change her clothes, Vecchi said, ‘No, you’ll stay. You’ll clean up your call.’”
The next day at roll call, Vecchi said nothing about her extraordinary efforts to revive the drowning victim. Instead, he allegedly remarked only that the officers had done a good job cleaning up the scene.
“I found this comment to be misogynistic and belittling and degrading,” she told investigators. It was if he was saying all she was good for was cleaning up waste, she said.
For his part, Vecchi told investigators he would never “belittle somebody and act misogynistic in front of an entire roomful of people. It’s ridiculous.”
The report also found that Vecchi violated department policy when he ran for the select board in June 2021. He collected nomination signatures outside of police headquarters, grabbing co-workers as they came and went. Even though he was off duty, the investigators called it “conduct unbecoming an officer.” A month later, Vecchi withdrew from the race.
Andrea Estes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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