Tisbury officer placed on paid leave, pending hearing

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File photo by Ralph Stewart

The town of Tisbury placed town police Officer Kelly Kershaw on administrative leave this morning, May 23, and scheduled a hearing before the selectmen, who are the town police commissioners.

“I placed her on paid administrative leave, pending a hearing before selectmen on June 3,” John W. “Jay” Grande said. “It was effective immediately, and it was in coordination with the police chief.”

Mr. Grande, Tisbury’s town administrator, said because of Officer Kershaw’s right to privacy, he could not characterize the nature of the upcoming hearing. The hearing may be public or private. Under the state’s open meeting law, Officer Kershaw may elect to open the hearing to the public. If she does not exercise that option, the hearing will be in executive session.

Also because of privacy concerns, Mr. Grande would not comment on the reason Officer Kershaw was placed on leave.

Selectman Jeff Kristal said the town’s action today is part of a careful process.

“She has been placed on administrative leave; this is part of the process,” Mr. Kristal said. “The next part of the process allows for a hearing. It’s quite prolonged. It deals with unions, contractual obligations, including taking into consideration the town’s personnel bylaws. The entire process takes a long time.”

Ms. Kershaw was scheduled to return to work today, following more than six months on paid medical leave from the Tisbury department.

She began that medical leave following an injury she sustained when she struck a tree while driving her police cruiser on November 20, 2012.

She has had a contentious relationship with the department and the town. In 2009, she filed a sexual harassment claim with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. She is currently suing the town and the department in Dukes County Superior Court for employment discrimination. In the lawsuit, she alleges the department and her fellow officers have retaliated against her for pursuing legal action.

On May 15, the Edgartown District Court issued a criminal complaint against Ms. Kershaw for her actions during a fire at her home on May 9. The criminal complaint charges Officer Kershaw with hindering a firefighter who was trying to put out the fire, a felony punishable by up to five years in state prison, but not less than 30 days of incarceration. She will also be arraigned on misdemeanor charges of assault on a police officer, disorderly conduct, and threatening to commit a crime. Her scheduled arraignment on May 17 was postponed until June 28.