Officials from Newton, Massachusetts, have alleged that a former city employee shut down the Newton Police Department’s website after a dispute over pay.
Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said the ex-employee, 73-year-old Steven Smith, was the police department’s information technology director and shut down the website in late June and July. The Boston Globe reported that Smith left his position in March, and that he said he felt he was owed $137,000 in compensatory time at the time he brought down the website.
During the shutdown, people trying to access newtonpolice.com encountered a message that read in big red letters: “This site is not experiencing technical difficulties.” Underneath, in smaller font, the message continued: “Newtonpolice.com has provided residents of Newton information at no cost to the City. Please ask Mayor Fuller to have this site restored.” The message concluded with the mayor’s email address.
Fuller said that the employee refused to turn the website — which he owns — over to the city. Since then, Newton has created a new website for its police department. The old website is no longer active.
“Following his departure, Mr. Smith essentially shut down the NPD website, a vital resource for the residents of the City of Newton and those who may have business with NPD,” Fuller told the Globe.
According to the Associated Press, Smith said in a statement that he was “disheartened by the city’s representation of the facts in this manner” and offered to work with the city to resolve the issue.
Smith said he was honored to work the Newton police for 20 years, and he claimed to have significantly improved the department’s technological capabilities. Over that time period, he also raised a family.
In April this year, Smith became director of police certification for the Massachusetts Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission (POST), an agency formed in 2020 under the state’s new police reform laws. The commission is responsible for certifying officers and investigating claims of misconduct.
Smith ultimately resigned following an investigation conducted by the mayor after the city released emails regarding the police webpage following a records request from the Globe.
The emails suggested there was some form of misconduct going on even after Smith had undergone a background check for his new position with POST.
“Both [Police Chief John Carmichael] and I are disturbed by what we’ve found happening within the Newton Police Department’s IT function,” Fuller said at the time.
“I think it may be appropriate to notify legal and consider informing POST regarding this behavior by Mr. Smith. I am sure that this conduct is not in the best interest and the standards required by POST,” the police chief said in an email to colleagues and the mayor.
Upon investigation, it was found that Smith — who is not a certified police officer — was granted “special police officer status” in 2000 and was allowed to add police blue lights to his personal vehicle.
Police officials are currently reviewing “official and unofficial” badges handed out by the department, as well as items like police lights and cruisers.