AGAWAM — After learning the FBI is no longer investigating three Agawam police officers accused of using excessive force against a disorderly prisoner in June 2016, Mayor William P. Sapelli says he did what any good leader would do.
“You bring them back. It’s that simple,” he said Tuesday, noting that one of the officers, John P. Moccio, has not returned to work. His case is still before the state Civil Service Commission, according to the mayor, who made resolving the issue a priority after taking office in January.
Now, two of the veteran cops are back on the job, including a demoted officer who was reinstated to his previous rank of sergeant.
In October 2016, then-Mayor Richard A. Cohen announced the termination of Moccio, Officer Edward B. Connor and Sgt. Anthony Grasso for their roles in the arrest of 27-year-old David Desjardins at Six Flags New England on June 19, 2016.
The Connecticut resident was highly intoxicated and combative when police took him into custody at the amusement park. Desjardins continued to struggle with officers at the Agawam Police Department, where the incident was recorded by a station camera. The video shows Desjardins tussling with officers, one of whom is seen striking him with a baton multiple times.
Cohen forwarded the results of Agawam’s probe, which included hiring an independent firm to assist with the investigation, to Hampden District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni, who declined to prosecute.
In January 2017, however, the FBI launched a use-of-force investigation to determine if any civil rights violations had occurred during the incident.
When Sapelli became mayor in January, one year after the launch of the FBI probe, he inquired about the status of the investigation. “I asked them what’s taking so long,” he said.
As a result of the investigations, Grasso, formerly a sergeant, was demoted to patrol officer — a position that comes with an annual base salary of $59,000. But with no criminal charges pending against him, Grasso has been reappointed to the rank of sergeant, says Sapelli, who believes the officer has suffered financially from the demotion.
“He lost pay for over a year and a half. I think that’s enough,” the mayor said.
The annual base salary for a sergeant is around $73,000. Grasso, a 20-year veteran of the force, earned over $150,000 in 2015, while Connor and Moccio made around $109,000 and $90,000, respectively.
The officers’ firings sparked an outcry among many town residents, leading to lawn signs, a petition, and a Facebook page supporting the “APD 3,” as the trio became known.