The Waltham Retirement Board recently voted unanimously to grant retirement benefits to former Waltham Police Chief Thomas LaCroix, despite his convictions for two counts of domestic assault & battery involving his wife Andrea. Under the Massachusetts Retirement Law, if a public employee in Massachusetts is convicted of an offense involving violation of the laws applicable to his office or position, he is not entitled to receive a disability retirement.
In the LaCroix case, the law which requires pension forfeiture, G.L. c. 32,§ 15(4), was construed narrowly. The basis cited for the narrow application of the law was the Massachusetts Appeals Court’s decision in Durkin v. Boston Retirement Board, wherein Durkin was intoxicated and fired his department-issued service weapon at another Boston Police Officer. Durkin was convicted of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon. The rationale for denying Durkin is pension was that “a police officer’s assault and battery on another person by means of discharging a service weapon in a crowded residential area for no legitimate purpose involves the violation of the laws applicable to the police officer’s position.” In former Chief LaCroix case, no weapon was involved.
The Retirement Board determined that there was no nexus between LaCroix’s off-duty crime and his position as Chief of Police. This case illustrates the principle that a conviction of violation of any statute, ordinance or by-law by a police officer will not and should not automatically result in a pension forfeiture. Instead, a distinction must be drawn between those violations of law by a police officer that result in forfeiture and those that do not.