Reading, MA – A group of Reading police officers walked out of a Reading Select Board meeting on Tuesday after a board member claimed that he was “feeling pretty intimidated” by the officers’ presence.
The Reading Police Department (RPD) has been without a police chief for over one year, WCVB reported.
The officers attended the meeting to ask the board to vote on hiring a new chief.
“What we are asking is for you to take action on something that has been in front of you for an exorbitant amount of time,” one of the officers said during the town hall meeting.
Many of his fellow officers also spoke out in favor of moving the hiring process forward.
But Reading Select Board Member Andrew Friedmann apparently took the officers’ unity on the issue as some sort of threat.
“I’m feeling pretty intimidated by the police officers in this crowd,” Friedmann said. “You laugh at that, and you think that’s funny, but I have to live in this town and all of you drive around town with guns.”
Well over a dozen people in the crowd – many of whom were visibly frustrated by the offensive comments – immediately rose to their feet and abruptly left the room.
“We’re all taxpayers, too,” one officer said on his way out the door, according to WFXT.
On Wednesday, Board Chair Vanessa Alvarado apologized for the way the situation was handled.
“The select board fully supports our officers and public safety staff,” she told WCVB.
Board Vice Chair John Halsey was mortified by what Friedmann said.
“Frankly, I thought the comment out of nowhere,” Halsey told WCVB. “For me, it was embarrassing.”
“I think it’s awful that here we are, having an interview about something in our town that never should have happened, about a topic where we take great pride – which is our police force,” the vice chair added.
RPD declined to comment on Friedmann’s anti-police statements.
On Wednesday, the Reading firefighters’ union said it is standing in solidarity with the men and women of police department.
“Our members would like to express the support we have for our brothers and sisters in blue at the Reading Police Department,” the union said in a Facebook post. “Everyday we work closely with these officers to serve the public. The men and women of the organization are professionals that put themselves at risk every time they report for duty. We stand with them.”
Friedmann ultimately apologized for his comments during a brief interview with WFXT on Wednesday.
“I deeply regret my statement and recognize it was wrong,” the select board member said. “It was one of those comments made in the heat of the moment wish I could take back.”
He said he is “absolutely not” concerned about the city’s police force being armed.
“It was just a gut reaction it was stupid and unfounded and again I feel really bad about saying it,” Friedmann told WFXT.
Friedmann is currently running for re-election, according to the Reading Patch.