Main Street Arrest Being Investigated


Front Page / Dec. 9, 2004 12:00am EST

Main Street Arrest Being Investigated

Randolph resident Harvey Whitney, center, is bracketed by RPD Officer James Beraldi, at left, and VPS Tpr. Paul Gauthier, following a daytime incident Friday morning on Main Street.  (Herald / Amelia P. Lincoln)Randolph resident Harvey Whitney, center, is bracketed by RPD Officer James Beraldi, at left, and VPS Tpr. Paul Gauthier, following a daytime incident Friday morning on Main Street. (Herald / Amelia P. Lincoln)

A police officer’s attempt to deliver a court citation to a 56-year-old Randolph man in a Randolph drug store last Friday morning led to an extended scuffle between the two on a snowy Main Street parking lot.

A crowd of onlookers was drawn to the scene, which went on for perhaps 15 minutes, before the man, Harvey L. Whitney, was subdued and handcuffed, with the assistance of additional law enforcement officers.

According to Randolph Police Chief Jim Krakowiecki, the incident began after Officer James Beraldi attempted to hand Whitney a citation to appear in court for a felony charge of stalking. Police allege that Whitney, a familiar figure in town, had this fall stalked a 16-year-old female to the extent that she was afraid to be out on Randolph village sidewalks.

As a result of last Friday’s fracas, Whitney has been cited to court on three additional charges: disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and "simple assault on a law enforcement officer by physical menace."

He will be arraigned on the four charges, including the stalking charge, Dec. 20 at Orange District Court. At that time, police affidavits supporting the charges will become public.

Last Friday’s parking lot struggle has also led to an internal investigation by the Randolph Police Department into Officer Beraldi’s conduct.

The investigation, according to Chief Krakowiecki is a response to a complaint of "police brutality" from one of the witnesses to last Friday’s arrest. Twenty-year-old Randolph resident Riley Harrness arrived last Friday at the police station, at about the same time as the handcuffed Whitney, to file a complaint, the chief said.

RPD officer Sgt. David Leighton is conducting the investigation, and is still in the process of interviewing witnesses and collecting written statements, Krakowiecki said. One of the people he is contacting is Harrness, the chief said.

Harrness told The Herald last Friday, a few hours after the incident, that the officer—he did not know Beraldi’s name—seemed "very excessive" in his handling of Whitney.

Harrness reported the Randolph police officer "ripped off" Whitney’s poncho, knocked his groceries to the ground, and "threw him into (the outside wall of) Champlain Farms." Harrness said the officer twice pepper-sprayed Whitney.

Harrness, who was not aware of what sparked the struggle, said that Whitney "tried to walk away, but was not actively resisting."

"If he threw a punch, I could see it, but he was just standing there," Harrness added.

Harrness agreed that Whitney became more resistant as the confrontation continued, but that his resistance appeared to be a reaction to "ridiculous" behavior from the officer.

Video Vault owner George Rich, who only saw the final minutes of the incident, reported that Whitney "was resisting pretty good." Rich said he saw no sign of "mistreatment."

Norm Corliss of Braintree saw the tail-end of the incident, as well. He said he saw actions that "seemed unnecessary," including the officer kicking Whitney once "because he wouldn’t get down on the ground."

The officer, Corliss commented, might have called for assistance, instead of trying to bring Whitney under control by himself.

Krakowiecki said Tuesday that it appeared to him that Beraldi, whom he called "a well-qualified officer," had acted appropriately. Although Beraldi started working for RPD only three months ago, he has been a police officer for eight years, working previously in Williston and Shelburne.

However, the chief promised a thorough investigation, and that there would be "departmental" consequences if the investigation showed inappropriate conduct.

Beraldi’s report on Friday’s incident indicated that he arrived at the police station that morning to find a message from fellow RPD officer Michael Welch, asking any officer seeing Whitney to deliver the citation on the stalking charge.

Krakowiecki noted this week that the Orange County State’s Attorney's office had reviewed the case and agreed to the citation. The chief noted that his officers have had previous contact with Whitney, including twice arresting him for "aggravated stalking." They have also delivered a "no trespass" order and dealt with business owners who complained that Whitney was bothering customers, he said.

Beraldi, alerted by state police dispatch that Whitney was at Brooks Pharmacy, traveled there, at about 10:45 a.m. Friday, and attempted to hand the document to Whitney. The officer reported that Whitney, who was at the check-out counter, became "upset, agitated, and uncooperative" after seeing that the document was a court citation for stalking.

Saying, "This is all lies. People are making up lies, and I’m not taking it," Whitney walked out of the store, Beraldi wrote.

Beraldi reported that he followed him and repeatedly asked Whitney to take the citation, but Whitney refused.

Chief Krakowiecki said witnesses have affirmed that the officer repeatedly "begged" Whitney to accept the court summons. Aware that Whitney has hearing problems, Beraldi did attempt to communicate face-to-face, the chief indicated. Beraldi’s report indicates, however, that he was rarely in front of Whitney.

Beraldi wrote that Whitney became increasingly agitated, and was waving a walking stick in a "threatening" manner, as he walked away, once bringing the stick towards the officer.

Refusing to accept a citation is a serious matter, noted chief Krakowiecki this week. He said that police quite often deliver these summons in public or at work places, as well as deliver them to residents at their homes. Beraldi did, in fact, stop at Whitney’s residence earlier with the citation, but he was not there, the chief said.

"You have to accept a citation," the chief explained. "If not, it is a violation."

According to state rules for police, Krakowiecki added, officers may arrest those who refuse a citation.

The chief pointed out that it wouldn’t do to allow suspects to dictate just where and when to accept a citation.

"I wouldn’t be doing my job, and Jim (Beraldi) wouldn’t be doing his, if he allowed him (Whitney) to walk away without accepting the citation," Krakowiecki said Tuesday.

Last Friday, Officer Beraldi made a decision to arrest Whitney.

At that point, the situation turned more physical. Beraldi reported that Whitney clenched his fists to his chest, in order to resist the officer’s attempts to handcuff him in back. A lengthy struggle ensued, with Whitney sometimes on the ground. Twice he was pepper-sprayed.

Krakowiecki this week suggested that the long and episodic struggle between Whitney and Beraldi was more a matter of the officer trying not to hurt Whitney, than a show of excessive force.

"One of the hardest things to do is to put cuffs on someone who is resisting—and not hurt them," the chief said. Beraldi, he added, is a former self-defense instructor.

The chief also explained that police "are allowed to meet force with the next force."

That might involve knocking someone down, for example, in order to gain control, the chief added.

During the struggle, Beraldi radioed for help, and a state police trooper and Orange County deputy soon arrived on scene, and assisted Beraldi in subduing and handcuffing Whitney. An ambulance was also summoned and emergency workers treated a cut on Whitney’s knee, sustained during the struggle.

Chief Krakowiecki said he "calmed down" Whitney at the police station, and also called a worker from the Clara Martin Center on Whitney’s behalf. He was later released, with a citation to appear in court on the four charges.

The chief yesterday reaffirmed both his belief in his officer’s actions and his commitment to ensuring that a fair investigation would be conducted.

"The public puts a trust in the officers, the department, and in me as the leader," he said. "I want them to know that we’re going to do our job. If Jim was wrong, we will address the problem.

"The last thing we want the public to do," the chief added, "is to feel they don’t have trust in us."

"I have nothing to hide," he added.

Witnesses to last Friday’s arrest are urged to call the department at 728-3737.

By Sandy Cooch

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