Milford police chief defends traffic stop, calls actions ‘legitimate’ and ‘justified’

Alison Bosma |The Milford Daily News

MILFORD — A Worcester law firm sent out a letter Tuesday defending Milford Police Chief Michael Pighetti, after selectmen placed him on paid leave last week.

“I want the community to hear directly from me on these issues,” the letter, marked from Pighetti himself, read, “so that the record can be set straight and the facts can be known, including community awareness that my actions were legitimate, justified and necessary to protect public safety.”

The letter was emailed to several news outlets by Andrew J. Gambaccini, of Worcester-based law firm Reardon, Joyce & Akerson, P.C. Gambaccini labeled it as a statement from Pighetti in his email.

Selectmen voted Feb. 8 after an executive session to place the chief on leave, pending an investigation into an unspecified incident.

In his letter Tuesday, Pighetti said he arrived at the meeting in question prepared to speak, but was not allowed to do so.

Twice during that meeting, he wrote in his letter, he was asked by Board of Selectmen Chairman William Kingkade Jr. if he wanted to say anything, but Selectman Thomas O’Loughlin responded that it would be inappropriate to hear from Pighetti.

Lt. James Falvey was put in charge of the department in the meantime.

A release from the town said only that the investigation was looking into allegations that Pighetti had used “unauthorized and unnecessary police powers.”

Pighetti couldn’t immediately be reached when the Daily News sought comment on Tuesday.

In Tuesday’s letter, Pighetti said he was driving his town-issued, unmarked police cruiser on Jan. 28 when he witnessed a vehicle run a red light at the intersection of West and Congress streets, which is near downtown Milford. He saw the vehicle speed, cross the center line, and nearly hit parked vehicles, he said.

“I obviously was concerned by these observations,” Pighetti wrote, “not only based upon the potential harm that it created for persons and property in the area, but also because it could have been the case that the driver was suffering from a medical emergency or otherwise was impaired.”

His cruiser has emergency lights and a siren, which he activated to pull the vehicle in question over, he said, trying first the lights, then the siren.

Pighetti wrote that he immediately requested assistance from the Police Department, and explained the situation to arriving officers, but did not tell them what to do.

“I issued no orders or instructions to the officers as to what they should do,” he wrote. “I left the scene.”

The driver was ultimately cited for not having a valid license, he said, but no citations, such as for a marked-lanes violation, were issued based on Pighetti’s observations. The driver was not determined to be impaired, he said.

“My justified actions were motivated solely by the desire to protect the safety and security of our community members,” he wrote.

When Pighetti was hired as interim police chief in 2019, he would have had to take the state’s police academy training again to have full access to police powers. The state requires officers who have been out of the force for more than five years to retrain.

Pighetti did not do so at the time, and neither Pighetti nor town officials have responded to Daily News requests asking if he has since completed the training.

“I am prepared to defend my actions as proper and legitimate,” Pighetti wrote, “although it seems clear that a majority of the Board already has arrived at negative determinations prior to hearing from me and before any investigation occurs.”

It is unclear how long the town’s investigation into Pighetti will take.

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