FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) – Fall River interim police chief Paul Gauvin announced Wednesday he has fired embattled officer Michael Pessoa, who is currently facing several criminal offenses related to allegedly assaulting suspects and falsifying police reports.
The termination comes roughly a year and a half after a grand jury indicted Pessoa in June 2019 on 15 counts of assault on four different men in separate cases. Pessoa was placed on administrative leave from the police department after the indictment, pending city employment proceedings, which concluded Wednesday.
“My decision to terminate him was based on the findings of a hearing officer designated by the city to determine whether Mr. Pessoa had engaged in serious misconduct in violation of Fall River Police Department Rules and Regulations,” Gauvin said in prepared remarks. “The hearing officer found substantial evidence that Mr. Pessoa had engaged in egregious violations of Police Department Rules and Regulations and that termination was warranted.”
Frank D. Camera, Pessoa’s attorney, said in an email that his client “was an exemplary police officer for the City of Fall River Police Department for 18 years and at all times throughout his career served the public with honor and respect.”
“The decision to terminate, though disappointing to Mr. Pessoa, comports with the City’s poor decision making of late,” Camera wrote. “Mr. Pessoa remains to be focused on being vindicated of these spurious charges.”
The employment proceedings took place in tandem to the ongoing criminal case against Pessoa, which is winding its way through the courts system. Gauvin underscored that his decision has “no bearing on the pending criminal allegations against him, which will be adjudicated through the criminal justice system.”
In the criminal case, Bristol County Superior Court Judge Thomas McGuire Jr. last month dismissed four of the 15 charges against Pessoa, determining prosecutors failed to present evidence showing the officer’s actions were not justified when he broke a suspect’s nose against a booking table in 2019.
Pessoa pleaded not guilty to all criminal charges and Camera has previously argued his client has become a scapegoat of the Fall River Police Department because police have lost political support in recent years.
Gauvin this week said his decision was based on the idea that officers “must comport themselves in accordance with the laws that they are sworn to enforce and behave in a manner that brings honor and respect for rather than public distrust of law enforcement personnel.”
“In this case, Mr. Pessoa did not adhere to that standard of conduct, and that is the basis for his termination,” Gauvin added.
Eli Sherman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.
Tim White contributed to this report.