Select board misfires on gun probe


There is a stench coming from the Oak Bluffs Police Station.

Sgt. Michael Marchand has resigned, forced out after an internal investigation found that he violated department policy in the handling of an M-4 rifle that was issued to him when he was the school resource officer at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

Marchand insists he turned the gun in, but there’s no evidence of that, according to an independent investigator. Marchand, through an attorney, says that’s because the police department’s records were poorly kept. Indeed, the same investigator who found that Marchand violated department policy also recommends updating the department’s archaic recordkeeping.

“It is recommended that the Oak Bluffs Police Department establish a better recordkeeping process for the weapons owned by the department. These records should document each and every move or change of custody for each weapon. The records should also reflect if a weapon is brought off-Island for any type of firearms training or recruit training,” the report states. “Rather than a handwritten journal and Microsoft Word document, the department should utilize some form of a records management system for the recordkeeping of weapons. There should also be a policy in place in which both the authorized weapons officer and the individual officer being issued or utilizing a weapon should provide their signatures, with a date indicating when it was issued and when it was returned.”

Try to follow this logic. The guy who blew the whistle on the department’s shoddy recordkeeping system for firearms is the guy out of a job. Yet the person responsible for the recordkeeping retired before all of this came out, and the officer who had been issued the rifle to do off-Island academy training by some unknown sergeant — he can’t remember, even though it was just a couple of years ago — has skated thus far without so much as a blemish.

And there appears to be absolutely no concern on the part of the select board that a gun was missing and mysteriously appeared back in the station’s basement — described as being coated with “rust, dirt, and mold” — without being detected.

Check out this line from investigator Paul L’Italien’s report the day after the gun was found: “Chief Blake informed me that saved surveillance video for entry to the department was not available.”

That seems too convenient.

And the timing of the discovery? The day after Sgt. Marchand was placed on paid administrative leave, according to Marchand’s attorney.

In his terse press release, select board chair Brian Packish appears more concerned about the story being reported than he does with the ugly cloud over the town’s police department.

“Contrary to erroneous news reports, no so-called ‘whistleblower’ claim was ever filed by the sergeant with any state or federal court or agency. This, along with a litany of other false claims, appear to have been made by one of the sergeant’s lawyers in what may have been a misguided negotiation strategy aimed at securing a more favorable severance agreement,” the release states. “Quite frankly, this did not succeed. The agreement the board reached with Sgt. Marchand is the same one the parties signed a month ago. A copy of the same is likewise being released today.”

Without that attorney releasing his intent to sue on behalf of Marchand, the public would be in the dark. L’Italien got it right when he wrote that his investigation raises more questions than answers. We have questions of our own. What are you doing about your department’s credibility problem? What are you doing about the fact that someone other than Sgt. Marchand snuck that rifle back into the station, and managed to escape the department’s surveillance cameras? Where are the questions about Officer Michael Maliff, who had the gun off-Island for training and whose name remained on the strap when the rifle was found? Maliff’s answers to the investigator were vague and nonresponsive. He repeatedly told L’Italien, “I can’t say it with 100 percent certainty.”

Any defense attorney representing someone arrested by Maliff will have a field day with these types of responses. Keep in mind this isn’t ancient history he was being asked about. He went to the academy in 2019.

Meanwhile, Officer Scott Harlow, the person who discovered the missing weapon, was allowed to sit in as an observer on Maliff’s interview with the investigator. And not only does that appear to be a conflict, but Harlow is also the department’s armorer — the person responsible for the department’s inventory of firearms. How do you allow these conflicts of interest to go unchallenged?

The select board certainly found a scapegoat in Marchand, but has provided no reassurance to the public that they are doing anything to further investigate how this happened, and who is responsible for having the gun and sneaking it back into the station. 

The leadership void is appalling, and the entire situation doesn’t pass the sniff test. The situation smells of amateurish “brotherhood,” police solidarity and all that, in support of morale. The energy would be better spent in support of professionalism and honesty. 


  1. Very well written and to the point on this rather nebulous affair, thus far. It is clear that former Lieutenant Williamson bears responsibility in this case, along with the Harlow, Cassidy, and Maliff. Each should be shown the door and asked to leave, none of them can be trusted to be truthful.
    What has been missing, other than the gun, in this disgusting display of untruthfulness by the police department members and rampant display of idiocy by certain members of the board of selectmen (Packish and Ruley) is where is Chief Blake. The fearless leader of this dumpster fire in progress has been nowhere to be heard or seen. This apathetic leadership at the top needs to also be addressed with a swift exit, he has obviously not been doing his job.

  2. Packish is not fit for public office. If he has a molecule or decency remaining, he ought to resign for the sake of the town he professes to love.
    But once people like him elbow their way into the public feeding trough, it is hard to pull them away.

  3. Here’s hoping our NEXT District Attorney establishes a BRADY LIST of compromised cops whose testimonies cannot be trusted.


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