A national racial justice legal organization is calling on Williamstown, Massachusetts to fire a city police officer who hung a photo of Hitler in his locker for years.
The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Act was established in 1963 at the behest of President Kennedy with the aim of strengthening legal protection for marginalized communities. At the height of the civil rights movement, it specifically aimed to secure the rights of black Americans following the assassination of activist Medgar Evers and to resist the segregationist governor of Alabama, George Wallace.
Arusha Gordon is the Associate Director of the James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate team on the Lawyers Committee.
“We were really concerned when we learned that a Williamstown police officer had had a Hitler poster in his locker for several years, and apparently without any sort of serious reprimand from superiors or people in town.” , she told WAMC. .
Constable Craig Eichhammer recently came under scrutiny for being on the Berkshire County Attorney’s Brady list of law enforcement officials found not to be credible to testify due to a past bad behavior. The Williams Record reported in July that Eichhammer admitted to lying about unspecified misconduct towards a civilian during a 2011 Massachusetts State Police investigation.
The article links the charges of ministerial sexual misconduct brought forward by former WPD Sergeant Scott McGowan in his since-abandoned 2020 federal lawsuit against the city in Eichhammer. In that lawsuit, which charged the City Police Department with racism, sexual harassment and more, McGowan alleged that an anonymous officer sexually assaulted a Williamstown resident at her home in 2011. McGowan’s lawsuit claimed that the same officer who had Hitler’s photo in his locker was the person who committed the sexual misconduct. Eichhammer admitted to hanging Hitler’s photo as early as 1999, even making a statement on the matter in August 2020.
He says he and other WPD officers referred to the officer in question – Peter Moser – as “Little Adolph”.
“The photograph was really taken because he shared a locker with an officer who looked like Hitler,” Acting City Manager Charles Blanchard said. “And it has been more or less highlighted as [an] inside kind of caricature. And he stayed there for 20 years in a locker. And that’s part of the lawsuit McGowan filed. And at the time, [Eichhammer] made it clear that he had stuck the photo on the locker, whereas as one could possibly have hung a comic or picture that they found funny. Now, certainly a lot of people might not think that was the case, but you know, in that context, he thought it was.
Blanchard says he has no plans to shoot Eichhammer in the photo.
“He had no ideology of Nazi Germany, swastikas or anything terrible that happened in World War II,” Blanchard told WAMC. “Again, the photo was just for a laugh at the likeness of an officer who shared the locker with him at the time. So, I mean, I think- It puts a terrible burden on the idea that it meant that he was racist. I mean, there is nothing that I have seen in the archives that shows that there was any racist activity. It is a pity that this photo was there, he There’s certainly no explanation for that, but bringing it to the level of saying that someone should be fired for something that really started 20 years ago, you know, doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.
Gordon and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Act disagree.
“We are calling for the firing of this specific officer, as we don’t believe the community can trust WPD or this officer to truly respond to hate crimes knowing that this poster had been in their locker for several years,” a- she declared. “So one of the examples we point out in the letter is if a synagogue, for example, had a swastika drawn on it, or if there was a racist shooting like the one we saw in Boston recently,” The community might turn to that officer, WPD, and feel like they could provide full crime information and be served by the ministry – and we don’t think that could happen at this point. And so we think it is necessary that the officer be fired.
She says the Center’s letter to Williamstown details examples of other communities taking action against hateful activity among law enforcement officials.
“We have seen police departments and police chiefs, once again, across the country take action to discipline or fire officers who engage in activities that may be considered hateful,” Gordon said. “For example, in California, there was a police officer who had affiliated with the Proud Boys, and he was fired. And our letter provides other examples of police departments who have taken steps to really send a message. clear that they take this type of behavior very seriously and that officers who engage in this type of behavior will be held accountable. ”
The Williamstown Police Department declined to comment for this story. Officer Eichhammer did not respond to a WAMC request for comment relayed by Acting Police Chief Mike Ziemba.