MARBLEHEAD — Suspended Police Officer Chris Gallo was the last person to testify before his disciplinary hearing wrapped up Tuesday evening at Abbot Hall.
The hearing is a result of allegations against Gallo involving time fraud and a domestic incident in July 2021, where Gallo’s girlfriend alleged she was assaulted.
Earlier that same month, Gallo was suspended for five days after Marblehead Police received a report from the inspector general’s office involving photos that allegedly showed Gallo’s cruiser parked outside his house when he was supposed to be on duty.
An internal investigation was then conducted following the five-day suspension, and Gallo was placed on administrative leave.
During his testimony, Gallo was asked by his attorney, Gary Nolan, to recall the events that led to the domestic incident. He was accused of letting his girlfriend operate a boat with his children aboard while she had been drinking. He and his girlfriend then allegedly drank in Gloucester.
However, Gallo said his girlfriend had been struggling with alcoholism, and he later testified that allegations of him drinking that day were false and that he did not bring any alcohol on the boat in an attempt to keep her from drinking.
As a result of the allegations, Marblehead Police Chief Dennis King testified that he believed Gallo was in violation of a number of departmental policies, including conduct unbecoming of a police officer.
“I believe that the decisions made by Officer Gallo that day made me question his decision-making ability,” King said when asked by Town Counsel Jane Friedman why he found Gallo to be in violation of department policies.
The domestic abuse claims were found to be falsified by Gallo’s girlfriend. However, King said that the decisions Gallo made throughout the day led to the incident, putting his fitness of duty into question. King said the fact that police were called to Gallo’s home “affects the reputation of the department.”
Gallo denied these accusations, saying that he drank one beer over the course of the day and that his girlfriend had agreed not to drink and instead took Antabuse, a drug that makes people extremely sick if they drink alcohol.
“Never in my entire career, and I bet (the officers responding at his house) either, have ever made an OUI or any type of alcohol-related charge without asking the person ‘How much have you had to drink tonight?’” said Gallo. “Nobody asked me how much I’ve had to drink tonight because it wasn’t an issue, it was an afterthought.”
Throughout his testimony, he called the Internal Affairs report false and “B.S.,” stating that the officers who responded to the scene, as well as King, got their facts wrong. Gallo admitted that his girlfriend had been drinking, and became emotional when testifying that he tried everything he could to prevent it from happening.
“This hearing right here, this isn’t a fact-finding hearing. You’re not trying to determine if I did something,” Gallo said sternly while looking at both King and Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer. “You’re going full-bore trying to make it sound like it’s something. You don’t want to get to the bottom of it, you’re printing up stuff that is ridiculous, a fabricated story.”
During the morning session of the hearing, Friedman asked King what his recommendation to the Select Board for disciplinary action would be for the allegations of time fraud by Gallo.
“I find it to be a serious violation of rules and regulations,” King said. “I would recommend to the board a 30-day suspension for the inspector-general report based on the aforementioned violations that identify professional image, conduct unbecoming, and devotion to duty.”
Friedman then asked what disciplinary action he would recommend to the Select Board regarding the allegations pertaining to the domestic incident. King testified that he would recommend discharge.
He further explained that his recommendation is based on the events of the entire day that led to the domestic incident. He cited poor decision-making after he testified that Gallo had made his girlfriend take pills that would make her “violently sick” if she drank alcohol while taking them, but continued to let her do so while he drank with her.
Later in King’s testimony, Nolan challenged him on his knowledge and understanding of the department’s Internal Affairs investigation policies, accusing him of consistently flipping his answer on if these policies are required to be followed to the letter.
Nolan’s line of questioning stemmed from the fact that Sgt. Sean Brady did not conduct a complete Internal Affairs investigation, which Nolan claimed was a violation of the policy’s “mandatory rules and obligations.”
Nolan asked him if the words “must” or “shall” had obligatory meanings, to which King replied “yes.”
When Nolan read through multiple policies containing both of those words, however, King said that they should be followed unless there is a valid reason to not do so, setting off roughly an hour of back-and-forth debate.
After a while, both King and Nolan seemed to become frustrated, admitting that they were confused by each other’s remarks. During King’s testimony, Friedman objected to Nolan’s questioning of the matter, accusing him of “badgering the witness” multiple times.
After Gallo’s testimony, the hearing concluded and Kezer said that both Friedman and Nolan will have until June 30 to file their hearing briefs. He said that he will have 30 days to issue a recommendation of disciplinary action to the Select Board, meaning that the decision on Gallo’s discipline will likely not come until August or later.