(Images via wbur.org)
Sports Editor: Shailyn Bacchiocchi
*The information included in this article can be found in the 81-Page Report released by the Town of Blackstone and contributed to the WBUR by reporter Walter Wuthmann. Some information can also be found in the Laudon Incident Report 10-1014-OF, which was also contributed to WBUR by Wuthmann. Both reports were open and accessible to the public posted through two WBUR articles listed here and here.*
On September 2nd, 2022, The Town of Blackstone engaged the Norris, Murray, and Peloquin LLC firm to oversee an investigation into their hiring of a former UMass Dartmouth police officer, David Laudon.
The Town of Blackstone released their reports after being contacted by a WBUR reporter who found that Laudon was one of the many police officers in Massachusetts who were able to find another law enforcement job after being dismissed from another department.
UMass Dartmouth has since responded to the claims and, as of right now, is launching its own investigation.
Here is what we know so far.
History of David Laudon at UMass Dartmouth
David Laudon joined the UMass Dartmouth police department in 2008. He quietly resigned in 2010 after being put on administrative leave by the UMass Dartmouth Police department after being reported for multiple sexual offenses.
According to his interview with lead investigator Chief Arthur A. Parker, Laudon engaged in multiple sexual and romantic relationships with students during his time in the police department.
He acknowledges in the interview that during that time, he was aware of the UMass Dartmouth Police Department’s policies prohibiting relationships with students.
During his time at UMass Dartmouth, he was first placed on administrative leave for “fraternization with students.” This was after female students had reported harassment against him.
During this time, he says he was told not to have contact with any students, including the ones that had reported him.
Despite the no-contact order, he messaged one of the students who initially reported him. This specific student went to the UMass Dartmouth police to report the message, and while at the station, she received a call from Laudon, which one of the UMass Dartmouth Police’s sergeants witnessed.
Laudon has multiple allegations against him, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape, abuse of power, violating policies of UMass Dartmouth, and violating orders of superior officers.
The 81-page report also includes interviews with students involved with Laudon (both consensual and nonconsensual), one of them stating that she is still afraid of him contacting her now that this investigation is under review.
Laudon resigned from the UMass Dartmouth Police Department in 2010 and joined the Blackstone Public School system in 2013.
According to Laudon, he was never asked about the former allegations against him prior to being hired by the Town of Blackstone.
During the time of the initial WBUR report, Laudon was assigned to investigate sexual assaults and allowed to work with students in the Blackstone Public School System.
The Town Of Blackstone Claims They Were Never Made Aware of Laudon’s History
In his interview, current Blackstone Police Chief Greg Gilmore claimed UMass Dartmouth had been uncooperative before, during, and after David Laudon’s hiring into the Town of Blackstone.
At the time of Laudon’s hiring in Blackstone, Chief Gilmore was a lieutenant, and the Chief of Police was Ross Atstupenas.
Former Chief Atstupenas claims that David Laudon never mentioned his former relationships with students and said as a result of his initial background review, which did not include any reports from UMass Dartmouth, there was nothing uncovered at the time that prevented him from being hired.
David Laudon claimed in his interview that he had an unofficial conversation with Chief Atstupenas about how he had violated a policy at UMass Dartmouth that included having relationships with female students, but Chief Atstupenas denies that conversation existing and insists if it did happen, he would have checked the information.
Chief Gilmore claims that he attempted to gain access to Laudon’s employment record multiple times from UMass Dartmouth, but each attempt was unsuccessful as the University would not provide them to him.
He said one time, when he called to request, he was told that “the records he sought were in storage and had to be found or located.”
Chief Gilmore claimed he was only made aware of David Laudon’s allegation history when a reporter reached out to him in the summer of 2022 to ask why Laudon had been hired in Blackstone, given his former resignation from UMass Dartmouth.
In the Fall of 2022, he was given a redacted UMass Dartmouth police report from 2010 that detailed the allegations against him from multiple female students at UMass Dartmouth.
He then met with the Town Administrator and Superintendent of Blackstone Schools and removed Laudon as the School Resource Officer until further notice.
Gilmore called UMass Dartmouth and spoke to then Acting (now current) Chief John Souza. When called, Gilmore claims Chief Souza could only find one report in Laudon’s personnel file from 2010 and could not find any text messages, victim, or witness statements in the electronic file.
According to his Linkedin, Deputy Chief Souza started as a Patrol Officer at UMass Dartmouth in 1998. He was then promoted to sergeant in 2004 and then promoted to Lieutenant in 2011. He remained a lieutenant until May of 2022. He was then promoted to Interim Deputy Chief before later being promoted in November of 2022 to Deputy Chief.
Therefore, at the time of Laudon’s employment at UMass Dartmouth, Chief Souza was a sergeant.
The report claims that the University never launched an official criminal investigation against Laudon despite the allegations, and it was never referred to the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office for review.
As of the time of the report’s release, Officer Laudon had resigned from Blackstone.
The Report Claims UMass Dartmouth Continues to be Uncooperative
The report claims that on September 13th, 2022, Chief Parker visited the UMass Dartmouth Police Headquarters to meet with Chief Souza to discuss information related to what happened with Laudon in 2010.
There, he claims to have been met with Director of Strategic Communications Ryan Merrill and Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Debra Majewski.
Parker claims to have been informed by Debra Majewski that they would not allow Chief Souza to be interviewed.
According to the report, Parker told them that if they would not allow Chief Souza or provide him with the internal affairs report on the matter, he would have to “identify the complainant, and locate and interview her about what she alleged.”
Parker claims Majewski objected to that attempt to contact the complainant, while Merrill suggested that if Parker wanted the internal affairs report, he should file a public records request.
The report claims that despite orders from the Supervisor of Public Records, UMass Dartmouth has “yet to produce a single document responsive to the record request or even identify any such records they may contend are protected from disclosure.”
UMass Dartmouth Denies Claims of the Report
UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Mark Fuller announced that they will be hiring the Edward Davis Company “to conduct an independent review of all the facts known to UMass Dartmouth at the time of these incidents in 2010,” according to WBSM.
Fuller also notes in this statement that his administration “does not tolerate sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual violence of any kind.”
Fuller claims in the statement that they will be reporting on actions taken by the University and the process of the hiring of Laudon by Blackstone.
Fuller said the finding will be made public once completed, but there is no time frame stated of when it will be completed.
Fuller states, “while these incidents occurred over thirteen years ago, I state unequivocally that today’s UMass Dartmouth does not condone any behavior such as is described in the Blackstone report.”
Written in a statement to WBUR, Director of Strategic Communications Ryan Merrill called the report “inaccurate, misleading and incomplete.”
He says that “the university has been compliant with all relevant laws and regulations and was as responsive and transparent as legally possible.”
It is hoped that the University will be able to provide a detailed report in a time-efficient manner.