How Tisbury PD enabled a heinous crime

Town investigation found police abandoned a teenager to a rapist.


On the night of July 23, 2011, three Tisbury Police officers responded to a domestic disturbance call. As they arrived, officers saw a shirtless man bolt from the house. Two officers would eventually search for that man, but no officers chased after him when he was seen fleeing. Inside, police discovered a battered mother and a nanny who had been sexually assaulted. Also in the house were the mother’s three children. Police learned the man who had fled the house was behind the crimes against the mother and the nanny. The mother was taken to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital by ambulance and given assurances police would watch over the nanny and the children. That did not happen. Police gave up their search for the suspect and returned to the police station, leaving an untreated and unexamined 15-year-old nanny and children, 8, 3, and 2, alone at a crime scene with a suspect at large. After police departed, the man returned to the house and raped the nanny at knifepoint. 

In October 2012, David L. Thrift, a 31-year-old truck driver who had come to the Vineyard from out of state for work, pleaded guilty to rape of a child with force and two counts of solicitation of a crime — those two counts for an alleged jailhouse plot to hire a fellow inmate to murder the nanny and assassinate a Cape and Islands assistant district attorney. Thrift was sentenced to 10 to 13 years in state prison. 

Reports, transcripts, and other records obtained by The Times during a 14-month investigation reveal never-before reported details of an internal inquiry launched by the town of Tisbury. The records show the magnitude of the mistakes made during the police response, the breadth of testimonial inconsistencies, and the insouciance exhibited by some officers during testimony. The records raise a question: What has the Tisbury Police Department, which has long been troubled, done to ensure such a calamity never happens again? 

The Tisbury Police Department resisted records requests for the investigation material and associated records. However, The Times repeatedly appealed to the state’s supervisor of records, and received favorable determinations. Tisbury released records both ahead of those determinations and after they were issued. 

Kopleman and Paige attorney Brian Maser conducted the internal investigation into the police response of July 23 and 24, 2011, for the town of Tisbury. Maser interviewed five police officers, two paramedics, and an EMT as part of that investigation. Former Tisbury Police Chief Dan Hanavan and former town administrator John Bugbee attended all the police officer interviews. Hanavan declined comment twice, and Bugbee couldn’t be reached for comment. 

Maser’s 17-page report to Hanavan detailed department policies that at least two of the responding officers violated that night. Maser’s bottom line was that the nanny was raped because police left the scene, and leaving the scene was “inexcusable.” Of the three officers who first responded to the scene on July 23, Sgt. Robert Fiske was terminated, Officer Scott Ogden was suspended for five days, and Officer Michael Gately was issued letters of reprimand that were later retracted. A town attorney later characterized Gately’s reprimand letters as related to the town’s subsequent investigation, and not his response. 

In a telephone interview from prison, Thrift denied he tried to have two people killed. He also denied use of a knife against the nanny, and claimed he was forced to plead to crimes he didn’t commit. “There was a whole lot of fabricated evidence between the cops and the DA,” Thrift said. 

“As far as being in jail for sexual contact with [the nanny], I’m guilty of that,” Thrift said. “As far as aggravatedly raping her, that did not happen. And I did not try to pay any money to kill anybody.” Thrift alleged he was hit with “trumped-up charges” to compel a plea. 

The office of Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett didn’t share that assessment in any way. That office ultimately prosecuted the case following the murder plots. 

“The case concluded with pleas to rape of a child by force, rape of a child aggravated by age difference, assault and battery, intimidation of a witness, violation of a restraining order, and two counts of solicitation to commit a felony,” Carrie Kimball, a spokesperson for the office, wrote. “These were not ‘no contest’ or so called Alford pleas; rather, Thrift stated under oath and in open court that he was guilty of these charges and agreed to the commonwealth’s recitation of the facts.” 

Kimball also noted Thrift’s lawyer was skilled and “apparently” never questioned motives for the plea agreement.

Thrift’s 2012 attorney, Robert Hofmann, declined comment. 

In his report, which was received by the town a year before Thrift pleaded in court, Maser described Fiske’s police performance as one of “extreme malfeasance.” During Ogden’s sworn testimony at an administrative interview on August 30, 2011, Maser received various answers an arbitrator would later characterize as implausible, such as Ogden not telling Sgt. Fiske that he saw somebody fleeing the scene, keeping the information to himself even after an ambulance had arrived to transport the battered mother. 

Maser: “So even at this point you don’t tell your sergeant, ‘Hey, I rolled up, I saw a shirtless man running from the property?’”

Ogden: “No.”

Maser: “Did you tell anybody that?”

Ogden: “I don’t recall telling anybody that, no.”

In his report, Maser found Gately’s decisions that night to be “unsound.”

In an email to The Times in October, Maser wrote, “While he was interviewed as to the events of that evening as a part of the town’s investigation, Officer Gately was not charged with misconduct as a result of anything he did that evening.”

A subsequent email by Joseph Duquette, another lawyer at Maser’s firm (now known as KP Law), stated, “These letters were issued due to Officer Gately’s lack of cooperation with respect to the Police Department’s investigation into the July 2011 incident, and no formal investigation into Officer Gately was ever initiated.”

The Times has been unable to obtain those letters.

The response

Fiske, a 23-year career officer at the time; Gately, a 24-year career officer at the time; and Ogden, a 10-year career officer at the time, arrived at the residence at approximately 10:46 pm. Ogden arrived by motorcycle, while Fiske and Gately responded in cruisers. Fiske was the officer in charge at the scene — the supervisor. Fiske’s attention had previously been brought to the same residence on July 5, 2011, when he approved a report written by Officer Christopher Habekost. (Habekost was appointed Tisbury’s acting police chief last month.) In 2011, Habekost arrested Thrift on July 4 on a charge of domestic assault, and eventually transferred him to a State Police cruiser for transportation to the Dukes County Jail, a report shows. However, despite having approved Habekost’s report, Fiske, in sworn testimony to Maser on August 5, 2011, denied ever knowing anything about Thrift prior to July 23, 2011.

Maser: “When you came to learn the identity of the individual who may have been running away from the property, do you have any history with that individual in any form or fashion?”

Fiske: “No prior contact or knowledge of him.”

Maser: “So you don’t know him at all?

Fiske: “No, I do not.”

Maser’s report notes that when Fiske learned that night that a teenage nanny may have been sexually assaulted at the house, Fiske reportedly informed a Dukes County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher that Thrift had been previously arrested for “a domestic,” and “‘was drunk and at it again.’”

Upon arrival, Gately saw what he described as “a human running east to west,” according to his August 30, 2011, sworn interview. “It was very dark,” Gately testified. “It was what I assumed was a person.” However, in a report generated July 23, 2011, Gately wrote, “As I was driving into the driveway, I saw a shirtless male running west to east across …” Maser didn’t press Gately, as he did Ogden, as to why he didn’t inform Fiske about seeing somebody run away. Maser also didn’t question Gately on the discrepancy in the direction the man was allegedly traveling. Maser didn’t question Fiske as to why, if he arrived “simultaneously” with the other two officers, he didn’t see the fleeing man. During his interview, Ogden testified to Maser that he thought “everyone” saw the fleeing man. 

While Fiske testified he didn’t see the man running, he nevertheless learned about him from Ogden “at some point.” Ogden testified he was unaware of anyone telling Fiske about the running man. This included himself. “I don’t recall ever telling him that,” Ogden testified. 

Ogden and Fiske proceeded to search the area with flashlights. Fiske also searched with the spotlight on his cruiser. He testified the initial search lasted approximately 20 to 25 minutes. During this time, Gately was in the residence. Fiske testified that during the search, he learned from a sheriff’s dispatcher an attempted rape was reported to State Police. 

Fiske didn’t muster any other officers from the department, or from adjoining towns or from the Massachusetts State Police, to assist in the search. Fiske also didn’t retrieve night-vision goggles from the department, or ask someone to bring them. Fiske and Ogden did not find Thrift. 

At a dangerousness hearing in Edgartown District Court on August 4, Cape and Islands Assistant District Attorney Laura Marshard told Judge Lance Garth the mother had walked in on Thrift while he was engaged in a sexual act with the nanny. Marshard said the mother was attacked after confronting Thrift, who was her husband. 

Fiske testified to being aware of sexual assault and domestic battery allegations during his initial response. Only after repeated questioning by Maser did Gately admit he learned the sexual assault of a minor might have occurred. At one point in his testimony, Gately described talking with the mother and nanny as “not a conversation like in a room full of gentlemen,” to which Maser replied, “I can imagine.”

Ogden testified that he didn’t know about the sexual assault allegation — something an arbitrator later found far-fetched. The most he admitted to was learning that Thrift had been allegedly “hovering” over the nanny. 

Ogden didn’t return multiple voicemails seeking comment on the Thrift case. Fiske couldn’t be reached for comment. Gately declined to speak on the record about the Thrift case.

Overall, the three officers’ reports and testimony yield more mystery than clarity as to the scope of what they learned and when it was learned. 

Fiske eventually called in an ambulance for a “domestic and possible sexual.” Fiske and Gately both attempted to interview the teenage nanny at the house. She was reluctant to speak with them. 

Fiske testified that he was a certified rape investigator, and that he taught an annual course at the Tisbury School to eighth graders that covered, among other things, “domestic violence training for teenagers” and “what constitutes sexual contact.” Fiske further testified that he understood victims of sexual assault aren’t always in a state of mind to be forthcoming. 

Maser asked Fiske if it was standard policy when there’s an allegation of sexual assault to transport the alleged victim to a medical facility to be examined and undergo a rape kit.

Fiske, in a roundabout manner, acknowledged it was. 

Nevertheless, the nanny wasn’t transported; only the mother was. 

In a transcribed Sept. 12, 2011, telephone interview with Maser, Tisbury paramedic Matt Montanile, who arrived in an ambulance with EMT Jason Hallett, recalled that Officer Gately encouraged the mother to go to the hospital despite her being upset and worried about her children. Montanile couldn’t recall with certainty if Gately assured the mother that officers would remain behind. 

Asked in his interview on Sept. 14 if officers said anything to the mother, Hallett said, “I just know that they were saying that there were gonna be officers on scene, and that the children would be all right.”

Asked who the officer was, Hallett stated, “I’m gonna go out and say that it was Gately …”

Gately testified the mother never expressed concern about her kids being left unguarded, and that he never told her police would watch over them while she was at the hospital. He also testified he didn’t hear anyone else say police would watch over her kids.

However, a report by Tisbury Police Det. Mark Santon, who investigated the crimes at the residence, stated that the mother at some point told him Gately had given such an assurance. “Officer Gately promised her that the police would not leave the house until she came back from the hospital,” Santon’s report states.

Maser noted in his report that when interviewed for the town’s investigation, the mother said “she told officers at the residence that the only way she would go to the hospital would be if an officer stayed with the kids. She recalls being asked if it was acceptable to leave the children with the nanny, to which she replied ‘no.’”

At the dangerousness hearing, Marshard told Judge Garth something quite different from what Maser’s investigation found — that the mother “determined” the nanny “would watch the children while she went to the emergency room.” Marshard also made no mention of the police failure to remain at the scene, and described “a shirtless male running out into the street” as part of “extensive evidence of flight.”

Marshard declined to comment on the Thrift case without approval from Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe’s office. ADA Tara Miltimore, spokesperson for that office, declined to make Marshard available for questions. 

When asked if he knew of any other victims at the scene besides the mother, Hallett told Maser, “I did not, no. My understanding was it was just the victim that we were transporting.” 

Montanile appeared to understand there was an allegation of sexual assault; however, key lines of those portions of his conversation are redacted. He appeared shocked to learn how old the nanny was.

“My my my, I never thought it was a person under age …” he said. 

Fiske testified that he deferred to the mother’s opinion that Thrift wasn’t likely to be a threat to the nanny, and that the nanny said she was OK staying at the residence in charge of the children, and that the nanny didn’t seem fearful. Maser seemed to use his next question like a cudgel.

Maser: “Is it fair to say, or am I mischaracterizing your statement, you essentially asked the battered wife and the potential sexual assault victim what they wanted to do?”

Fiske: “That’s a mischaracterization.”

Maser: “OK, why don’t you clear that up for me then?”

Fiske went on to testify he didn’t deem Thrift a threat anymore. 

The mother was transported to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital at 11:39 pm, and Gately departed for the Tisbury Police Station around the same time to prepare paperwork and to request issuance of GBC (general broadcast) for Thrift that would alert other Vineyard police departments to be on the lookout for him. 

Thrift told The Times he didn’t know police were looking for him. 

Fiske and Ogden continued to search the area, but at 12:28 am they gave up and returned to the Tisbury Police Station. 

Ogden testified he was aware prior to leaving the scene that Thrift had a 209A restraining order out against him. Such an order, according to Massachusetts law, requires an officer to remain on scene if there is reason to believe a household member could be in danger. However, Maser directed most of his criticism at Fiske. 

“No circumstances exist that justify Sergeant Fiske’s decision to leave [the nanny] in the home and return to the station,” Maser stated in his report. “Sergeant Fiske should have never left [the nanny] alone with the … children … after his initial response to that location.”

Maser went on to state it didn’t matter what discussions Fiske might have had with the mother or the nanny, conversations Maser wrote he “doubts” occurred anyway. In any event, Maser stated, a sexually assaulted nanny and a mother injured from domestic battery weren’t in positions to make safety determinations. 

“It troubled this investigator,” Maser further stated, “to hear Officer Gately, an officer with twenty-four (24) years of service to the town, state that he did not know whether he would have left the residence under the same set of circumstances. His answer in this regard brings into serious doubt his ability to effectively serve as Officer-in-Charge on a going-forward basis.”

Among the litany of department policy subsections Maser cited as being violated was the securing of a crime scene.

Maser noted Fiske failed to secure the crime scene, failed to collect evidence, and failed to facilitate an examination of the alleged sexual assault victim in a timely manner: “Sergeant Fiske’s poor decision making in this regard and his complete lack of compliance with department policies and procedures may jeopardize the effective prosecution of the commonwealth’s case against Mr. Thrift.”

The Essex County District Attorney’s Office balked at the notion the case might have been handicapped or otherwise compromised by, among other things, how Tisbury Police managed the crime scene. 

“This office is in possession of witness statements and forensic reports — which we may not disclose … demonstrating that the victim’s horrifying account was buttressed by substantial corroborating evidence,” Kimball emailed. “The only ‘handicap’ faced in the case, as stated in open court, was the victim’s understandable fear and reluctance, but ultimate willingness, to testify. The KP Law report you reference was issued in September of 2011, and the publicized firing of the responding officer on the basis of that report followed in November of 2011. Despite this, and in view of the strength of the case, in October of 2012, we reached a plea agreement with the defense for 10 to 13 years in state prison. In connection with his plea, the defendant was represented by skilled and experienced counsel…”

In addition to potentially hurting the victim’s legal position, the Tisbury Police Department nearly damaged the perpetrator’s legal position too, albeit years later. A Tisbury Police evidence log entry for July 24, 2011, listed a knife, a rape kit, shorts, and underwear. A notation in red ink dated March 18, 2019, and signed with Habekost’s initials, who was a sergeant at the time, stated “to be destroyed” and “found guilty and serving time.” Thrift was indeed incarcerated at the time, and remained so as of August 15, 2021, online records show. 

On July 20, 2021, Habekost declined to discuss the log entry when asked about it at the Tisbury Police Station. He requested the question in writing. In an email sent the same day, Habekost was asked if the evidence had been destroyed, and who authorized its destruction. 

“After checking the files,” Habekost wrote that he could find “no record that the evidence referenced” was “destroyed or otherwise disposed of.” 

Asked in a follow-up email if all the evidence remains in the Tisbury Police Department, and for further explanation on who authorized destruction, Habekost wrote, “I would respectfully decline to comment further on this matter.” 

According to Massachusetts law, “evidence or biological material” must be retained as long as a person is “in the custody of the commonwealth, or under parole or probation supervision in connection with the crime.”

Six days after he declined further comment on the subject, Habekost wrote that evidence hadn’t been destroyed, and remains in an evidence locker. “I was given some information at the time, which was discovered to be incorrect, that the evidence could be destroyed. After double-checking the relevant information, the evidence was removed from the category of evidence to be destroyed,” he wrote.

Miltimore told The Times the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office had no records that showed authorization for evidence destruction. 

In his sworn testimony, Tisbury Police Officer Joseph Ballotte said he arrived at the Tisbury Police Station at about 11:35 pm on July 11, 2011, for his midnight-to-8-am shift, and save for a brief call to search for an erratic driver, had been at the station until Fiske and Ogden arrived. Ballotte testified Fiske told him Thrift was on the loose, and that there had been a sexual assault and a domestic violence incident. 

Maser: “Did he mention anything about them leaving the minor female there, the sexual assault victim there by herself?”

Ballotte: “No, I don’t think he did.”

Officer Jason Marathas testified he encountered Ogden and Fiske at the station at the start of his midnight-to-8-am shift, for which he’d arrived early. Contrary to what Ballotte testified, Marathas testified that no pertinent information about the recent response was disclosed. 

Maser: “It’s your statement today that neither of them explained to you where they were, or the nature of the call?”

Marathas: “True.”

Maser: “Or that the individual had fled the scene, they didn’t know where he was, he had not been apprehended, nothing like that?”

Marathas: “Nothing at all.”

However, Ballotte had testified that Fiske told both himself and Marathas inside the station garage about the sexual assault of a teenager.

Marathas declined comment on the Thrift case. Ballotte didn’t reply to a request for comment.

Maser noted Ogden and Fiske were at the station a very short time before a dispatcher reported at 12:43 am that Thrift had returned to the house. Records show the nanny had been on the telephone to someone out of state when Thrift came through the back door of the house. The other person on the phone allegedly heard enough to notify a local sheriff’s department, who notified authorities in Massachusetts.

Marathas testified that upon hearing the dispatcher’s report that Thrift had returned, Fiske “looked stunned.”

All five officers raced to the residence.

Ogden made the arrest. Thrift allegedly resisted, and was taken to the ground before he was driven away in Marathas’ cruiser. 

Due to the age of the nanny and what allegedly happened to her, Hallett and Montanile, who returned to the scene, summoned a female paramedic from Oak Bluffs, Julie Lindland. Lindland told Maser when she was later at the hospital, she encountered the mother, who “was frustrated with the fact that no one stayed with the [children].”

Joining Lindland for her interview was Oak Bluffs Fire Chief John Rose, her boss. Rose hardly spoke save to acknowledge he was present.

Lindland stated a minor who alleges sexual assault must automatically be taken to a hospital under “state protocol.”

Maser expressed a sense that Lindland was hesitant to be interviewed and to potentially criticize police officers.

Lindland noted, “It’s a small Island.”


Through the Tisbury Police union, Ogden appealed the five-day suspension handed down by Chief Hanavan. Though not in charge on July 23 and 24, Ogden’s discipline also included being relieved of any officer-in-charge duties “until further notice,” and attending a domestic abuse training class. In her Feb. 24, 2013, decision denying Ogden’s appeal, arbitrator Sharon Henderson Ellis noted that Hanavan’s notice of discipline argued Ogden left the scene by choice.

“At Sergeant Fiske’s discipline hearing, you stated that you decided to leave the Thrift residence on your own volition, and did not receive direction from Sergeant Fiske,” the decision states. Hanavan’s notice also pointed out Ogden knew Thrift was at large, knew a domestic assault had taken place, and knew Thrift was under a prior restraining order. 

Ellis made it clear Ogden didn’t so much as let the nanny know he and Fiske were going. The union asserted Ogden didn’t bear responsibility because he wasn’t in charge, and didn’t have the authority to carry out department policy. As allegedly the least knowledgeable person on the scene about what transpired inside the residence, the union claimed Ogden “was not qualified to question Sgt. Fiske as to whether it was wrong to leave the minor occupants alone in the house.”

Ellis described Fiske and Ogden as “good friends,” and found the assertion that during their search for Thrift, they never conversed about Thrift “hovering” over the partially unclad nanny “strains credulity.” Once Gately departed and Ogden and Fiske were the only officers remaining on scene, Ellis further found the alleged lack of communication about the nanny “wholly implausible.” The union further asserted that even if Ogden had a duty to speak up, failure to do so wasn’t a department policy violation. Above all else, the union asserted, Ogden was bound by the chain of command. 

Ellis stated the union made an “undisputed and important point” about the chain of command, and that failure to follow it risks “chaos and dysfunction.”

Nevertheless, Ellis asserted that a police officer at a crime scene “cannot act mindlessly, suspending all judgment and common sense simply because he is not the ultimate officer in command.”

Ellis further stated that “Ogden’s departure from the scene with no thought whatsoever about the wisdom of leaving four minors alone while a violent household member was still unaccounted for is nearly incomprehensible.” Ellis quoted from Hanavan’s discipline notice, where he found in addition to violating department policy, Ogden showed “considerable lack of judgement” and “neglect of duty.”

In the aftermath of events that night, even following Fiske’s termination, “Officer Ogden demonstrated no remorse, nor did he acknowledge that he comprehends that the officer’s departure from the scene was a serious error,” Ellis wrote. 

Ellis found the suspension of Ogden was “amply supported by just cause.”

Fiske also appealed through the union. In an Oct. 12, 2012, decision, arbitrator Richard Boulanger upheld the town’s decision to fire Fiske. 

“It is not disputed that [Fiske] was aware of the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Policies, as he drafted them in the summer and fall of 2010, no more than one (1) year from the date of the July 23-24, 2011, incident,” Boulanger wrote. 

Boulanger determined Fiske failed to adhere to either of those policies on July 23 and 24. 

In addition to finding Tisbury “reasonably concluded” Fiske shouldn’t have permitted the nanny to watch the children without a police officer present — ”particularly” a nanny Thrift “had earlier sexually assaulted” — Boulanger found Fiske failed to seal and preserve the crime scene and the evidence in it. Boulanger noted Fiske had testified that he employed training keys to teach when he was “instructing teens on dating violence.” In a particular training key Fiske testified he used, “Investigating Sexual Assaults Part I: Elements of Sexual Assault and Initial Response,” Boulanger highlighted key paragraphs. One line in that text states: Police should “identify and secure the crime scene(s) to ensure that evidence is not contaminated or destroyed.” 

Boulanger found “there is no evidence that [Fiske] cordoned off the bedroom, any other portion of the house, or assigned a police officer to block entrance to the bedroom where the sexual assault took place.”

Boulanger noted neither Fiske nor Gately photographed the crime scene. Gately retrieved a camera from the police station, but only photographed the mother’s injuries at the hospital, Boulanger wrote. 

“While the identify [sic] of the alleged rapist was known,” Boulanger wrote, “the town reasonably concluded that [Thrift’s] conviction was clearly more likely if the crime scene had been secured and evidence of the crime had been photographed and collected.”

The union alleged the mother wasn’t a credible witness, and that Gately and Fiske provided accounts of greater veracity, particularly regarding authorization to let the nanny watch the children. 

Boulanger noted Fiske approved Habekost’s report of domestic assault and battery on July 4, 2011.

“I do not find credible [Fiske’s] testimony that on July 23-24, 2011, he did not remember David’s July 4, 2011, attack on [the mother],” Boulanger wrote. 

The union contended Maser’s investigation was flawed. However, Boulanger noted the union admitted it found nothing unethical about Maser’s work.

‘A terrible incident’

On July 28, 2011, Ballotte learned a car was vandalized. The car was located at the same residence where police responded on July 23 and 24. Ballotte learned the car had a tire slashed, fuses pulled, a belt cut, and sticks shoved into the door locks. The mother met Ballotte and Fiske outside the Tisbury Police Station, and alleged one of Thrift’s parents told her, “You are not leaving the Island.” The mother stated she wanted to go back to her home state.

Ballotte later examined the car himself, and also found license plates were missing and sticks had been driven into the ignition. Chief Hanavan joined Ballotte in questioning Thrift’s mother and her boyfriend. It’s unclear if charges progressed. The license plates were later found buried in the yard. 

After the events of July 23 and 24, Fiske, along with Gately and Ogden, filed complaints against the town with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) in part for discipline they received for their responses on July 23, 2011. The commission found no probable cause in all three officers’ cases. Fiske was later hired as a teacher’s aide at the Tisbury School, on Jan. 2, 2013. Select board member Jeff Kristal expressed frustration at a December 2012 meeting that the school hadn’t consulted or even notified the town it was hiring Fiske. Ogden was chosen as the Tisbury School’s resource officer in 2013, with no apparent concerns raised by the select board. Ogden remains at the department, and remains the school resource officer. Gately retired in 2016, and became a ranger for the Trustees of Reservations. As of the end of 2020, Gately had a $61,562.28 pension, according to Kelly McKracken, director of the Dukes County Contributory Retirement System. 

Tristan Israel, who was a member of the select board in 2011, said, “There were issues with the police department long before I was a selectman.”

Of the events that July night he said, “The case was horrendous.”

Geoghan Coogan, who was also on the select board in 2011, said, “It was a terrible incident,” and noted the town had a “very different department back then” — one Coogan believed had since improved. “I certainly think they’re in a better place now than they were back then,” he said.

On his last day before being put on paid administrative leave in good standing, Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio described the events of that night as “one of the most troubling cases that I have ever heard about.”

Saloio, who came to the department in 2018, shared why he thought Tisbury Police officers might not repeat the mistakes of July 23, 2011: “While there are no guarantees, of course, with anything, I’m hopeful that the policy updates that we have done, the participation in certification working toward full accreditation, and the standards that go along with those two components, as well as critically important active supervision, will hopefully prevent significant oversights occurring in the future.”

Former Tisbury Police Chief John Cashin questioned Ogden’s fitness for duty in a 2009 internal investigation. Chief Cashin alleged Ogden was culpable of “abusive, offensive, hostile, inappropriate, or otherwise harmful conduct.” 

Saloio’s viewpoint contrasted starkly with Cashin’s: “Concerning Scott Ogden, I have made a point of judging Officer Ogden from when I began my employment in Tisbury. And I would say since I began my employment in Tisbury, Scott has been reliable, extremely proficient, and a very, very competent police officer. He does everything he’s asked to do. He’s well-liked in the school, and he performs all his responsibilities at a very high level.”

In a text message to The Times, Tisbury Police union vice president Charles Duquette also praised Ogden. “Scott Ogden is an asset to the department, and community,” Duquette wrote, “especially for the Tisbury School. A lot of his work there goes unnoticed in the community.”

During Fiske’s arbitration process, the union argued Maser conducted Tisbury’s investigation for the “the sole purpose” of terminating Fiske, and that the town “failed to call percipient witnesses.”

Despite numerous contradictions and discrepancies in police testimony, The Times found no evidence the town called back officers or other witnesses for further interviews in an effort to sort out the truth. Similarly, The Times found no evidence the town questioned Det. Santon, or sought to interview a wider pool of witnesses. The Times also found no evidence any parallel investigation was conducted by a third party — essentially, Tisbury investigated itself. 

The nanny didn’t reply to a request for comment, and the mother couldn’t be reached for comment. 

The Times requested copies of any correspondence in which the town or the police department may have apologized to the nanny and the mother for the failure of officers that night. 

Neither town hall staff nor police department staff could find any such correspondence.

Records requests that made this story possible

Public records were integral to the telling of this story, but many of those records weren’t easily obtained. The Tisbury Police Department repeatedly resisted requests made by The Times for internal investigation records related to the police responses on July 23 and 24, 2011, and for other department records.

In one instance, when internal investigation records were requested for Robert Fiske and Scott Ogden, as well as other police records, the department responded with a letter that estimated the fee for producing them would be $2,901.60. The letter, which was signed by former Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio, described that fee as “a very conservative estimate.” Though many records can be handed over at no cost, Massachusetts Public Records Law allows state and local governments to charge a reasonable fee to search for and prepare records. The Times found the Tisbury Police Department’s fee estimate unreasonable, and appealed to the state’s supervisor of records. Subsequently the Tisbury Police Department reduced the fee by 94 percent. 

The Tisbury Police Department denied Michael Gately was subject to an internal investigation regarding July 23 and 24, 2011, and claimed responsive records couldn’t be found. Following appeals to the supervisor of records, Tisbury Police Department relinquished a 71-page transcript of Gately that bore little difference to interview transcripts of other officers who the department said were investigated. 

In addition to the Tisbury Police Department, The Times also received records from the Massachusetts State Police, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, two district attorneys’ offices, and from several other records custodians. The Times continues to pursue records on the Thrift case, including July 23 and 24, 2011, audio files in the custody of the Dukes County Sheriff’s Office, which remain the subject of an open appeal. 


  1. Thank you MV Times for this investigation and reporting. Seems like Tisbury PD has some explaining to do! Shame on them.

  2. The Game of Groans continues…
    In light of this reporting we can see where some of the roots of idiocy come from in regard to this so called ‘police department’. Saloio indicating his policies are somehow better than the other policies and will make officers follow them is ludicrous at best, thank goodness he is gone, because that was a most ignorant statement. As far as other ignorant maneuvers one of the most glaring is placing an officer, Ogden, at the school. It is clear he was at a bare minimum untruthful in his and more than likely incompetent at his job as a police officer…. So let’s put him with his wife , the assistant principal, at the school with all the children! Maybe Mr. Nichols was on to something whilst grumbling at the Linda’s Jeans and Saloio’s immediate retaliation towards Nichols (starts to kind of make sense now), especially since the officer, Ogden, is the Sheriff’s brother!!!!! What principal would then hire Fiske to teach children, it looks like a bunch of you scratch my back, I will scratch yours good old boy nonsense. Let’s not forget Gately, now he gets a pension and is working for the land bank… did the land bank do a background check on this miscreant??? It is absolutely horrifying what happened to this family, and I’m not sure why they haven’t sued Tisbury, but , I am changing my mind regarding the town of Tisbury Police Department. I used to think they were a combination of car 54 where are you and the three stooges, but, now I can safely say that town is ‘protected’ by the Insane Clown Posse!!!!! As Mr. Langhammer says… REGIONALIZE!!!!!

  3. Officer Ogden has done more good for this island than you could ever imagine doing Saltzburg. Find a hobby that doesn’t involve TPD

    • So you think the ineptness of the TPD should be kept a secret because you feel one of the 3 stooges has done some good on the island? Alright, I’ll play along. What has he done that deserves to keep this underwraps?

      • Everyone knows Mr. Michael Maliff is a former TPD special employee so I’m pretty sure his urging Mr. Saltzberg to STOP looking into TPD and find another hobby means that he wants Rich to stop digging before Mailiff himself ends up in an article! If you don’t have anything to hide Mr. Mailiff, why are you insisting Rich find something else to do?

        • Apparently, he’s unfamiliar with the First Amendment. Professional journalists don’t do this work as a “hobby” – they are in service to the citizenry.

    • This whole article reads like an episode of “Law and Order”. This guy can’t remember one thing, he doesn’t know the other. Then oh yea I do know that but not really. I know some TPD personally, but if there’s wrong, which it sounds from their own words, they need to be held accountable, no matter what they have done otherwise. You don’t get to cause harm and get away with it just because you’ve done good somewhere else

    • Mr. Maliff, I believe the point of this article is to show the incompetence of the officers involved in the incident on that day. I don’t think it has anything to do with how good the actual employees are as people but more importantly can they do the job that they have signed up for! And the article speaks for itself in that regard. Nice piece of journalism.

  4. Who did the back ground research (checks) before hiring these officers and when they were presented before the town Select Board? The buck doesn’t necessarily stop at the door of the police chief at the time.

    The Town should be using professional hiring search companies, not relying just on education, a personality check, nonexperience AND especially the sitting police chief nor the Select Board have no certification to choose.

    With the growth of the (island) town times have changed and Tisbury needs to step into the 21st Century

    • What Tisbury really needs is a Civilian Oversight Committee, hearing complaints (AND commendation) from the citizens, receiving and reviewing reports from the Chief, and approving or denying all new hires & appointments.

      Anything less allows the terrible Tisbury tyranny to continue. TPD is all out of free passes.
      They have too much power, and too little accountability. The necessary next step is Regionalization, but it can’t come until Tisbury citizens assert their authority over this rogue police department.

  5. Thanks for the digging. This is an important piece of journaism that demonstrates why we need local newspapers.

    • AMEN. Here’s hoping that the Times keeps drilling until they hit a gusher!

      Publish all TPD’s salaries. FOIA those Tisbury ‘annual audits’; they’re OURS, and we want to see them. What is TPD’s annual budget?
      Have they received complaints from the public about officers’ actions? If so, how were the complaints investigated, and what is the determination?

      We’re not letting them get away with this any longer. TPD needs to be put into receivership, then eliminated, then supplanted by the MVRLED.

      And once TPD is gone, bad actors & flops that flunk out of other island departments won’t have a safe pity-hire to land on. Everybody wins!
      Except, of course, for those failed Div III linebackers with badges who have had it far too good, for far too long, but they’ve got it coming.


      • I filed a complaint about Fisk long before this terrible incident. I would be really surprised if I was the only one.

  6. Thin Blue Line, right? Respect the Blue, right? Heroes who are above the law, and who have no incentives to protect and serve. An investigation of the Tisbury PD is urgent, from top to bottom: from hiring to arrest practices to discipline to performance reviews and promotions. Where in Tisbury government is oversight of the police? This is a scandal, and a time bomb waiting to go off and cost someone’s life.

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