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Embattled West Springfield Police Captain Given Support By City Council

Captain O'BrienWEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WGGB) — Captain Dan O’Brien quietly listened as one by one, dozens of supporters pleaded with city councilors Monday night to help him get back on the job.

“I spent 35 years down there, 25 as a captain and I’ve never seen anybody, including the worst criminals we’ve had, treated the way they are treating this man,” retired Police Captain Anthony Cestari said.

O’Brien has been on paid leave since an investigation into excessive force in late 2011. It bounced from West Springfield Police to the District Attorney’s office to the US Attorney’s Office, who decided in May not to file charges. An internal investigation was then launched in West Springfield.

“The mayor said it’d be about two weeks for that to wrap up, it’s been 19 weeks now and at this point cooler heads need to prevail,” City Council Vice-Chair Brian Griffin said.

The city council unanimously gave O’Brien a vote of confidence Monday, but ending his leave is in the hands of the mayor and police chief. So far,  the leave has cost the town hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“They also have to pay sergeants above pay grade, which is costing additional money for the town, so we are paying twice,” resident Susan LaFlamme said.

“That man belongs back on the street,” one supporter yelled.

Others say if the US Attorney didn’t press charges, it’s time to move on. O’Brien wants to get back to work immediately.

“He was a very good officer, he did his job,” Cestari said. “He was honest and he always did his job properly. That’s the important part of the job.”

“I work in a school, Captain O’Brien has been on duty at the school,” LaFlamme said. “I’ve seen with students who really like him. He interacts wonderfully with them.”

ABC40 put two calls into Mayor Gregory Neffinger Monday night, but he has not returned our calls. Town Attorney Simon Brighenti says the investigation is still ongoing to see if any department procedures were violated and until that is officially closed, commenting would not be appropriate. Captain O’Brien also declined comment tonight, only saying he is grateful for everyone’s support.

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