National Legal Organization Calls On Williamstown To Fire Officer Who Hung Hitler Photo In Locker
A national racial justice legal organization is calling on Williamstown, Massachusetts to fire a town police officer who hung a photo of Hitler in his locker for years.
The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law was created in 1963 at the request of President Kennedy in an effort to strengthen legal protection for marginalized communities. At the height of the Civil Rights movement, it was specifically targeted at insuring the rights of Black Americans after the assassination of activist Medgar Evers and resisting segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace.
Arusha Gordon is the associate director of the James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate team within the Lawyers' Committee.
“We were really concerned when we heard about the fact that a Williamstown police officer had had a poster of Hitler up in his locker for several years, and apparently without any kind of serious reprimand by superiors or people within the town,” she told WAMC.
Officer Craig Eichhammer has faced recent scrutiny for being on the Berkshire County District Attorney’s Brady List of law enforcement officials deemed not credible to be called on for testimony due to past misconduct. The Williams Record reported in July that Eichhammer had admitted to lying about unspecified misconduct toward a civilian during a 2011 Massachusetts State Police investigation.
The article connects charges of departmental sexual misconduct presented by former WPD Sergeant Scott McGowan in his since-dropped 2020 federal lawsuit against the town to Eichhammer. In that suit, which accused the town’s police department of racism, sexual harassment and more, McGowan alleged that an unnamed officer sexually assaulted a Williamstown resident in her home in 2011. McGowan’s lawsuit alleged that the same officer who had the photo of Hitler in his locker was the person who committed the sexual misconduct. Eichhammer has admitted to hanging the photo of Hitler as early as 1999, even giving a statement on the issue in August 2020.
It says that he and other officers in the WPD referred to the officer in question – Peter Moser – as “Little Adolph.”
“The photograph was, really came about, because he was sharing a locker with an officer who bore a resemblance to Hitler," said Interim Town Manager Charles Blanchard. "And it was more or less brought out as [an] inside kind of caricature. And it sat there for 20 years in a locker. And it came out is part of the lawsuit that McGowan had filed. And at the time, [Eichhammer] clearly stated that he stuck the photograph on the locker, while, just as one would have possibly of hanging a comic strip or a picture they thought was funny. Now, certainly a lot of people might not think it was, but you know, in this context, he felt it was.”
Blanchard says he has no intention of firing Eichhammer over the photo.
“He had no ideologies of Nazi Germany, swastikas or anything terrible that happened during World War II," Blanchard told WAMC. "Again, the photo was simply just to get a laugh out of the likeness of an officer who shared the locker with him at the time. So, I mean, I think- It puts an awful burden on the idea that this meant he was racist. I mean, there isn't anything that I've seen in the records that shows there was any kind of activity of being a racist. It's unfortunate that picture was there, there's certainly no explanation for that. But to bring it to the level of saying that somebody should be fired for something that really began its occurrence 20 years ago, you know, doesn't seem to be the proper thing to do.”
Gordon and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law disagree.
“We do call for the termination of this specific officer, given the fact that we don't think the community can trust WPD or this officer to really respond to hate crimes knowing that this poster was up in his locker for several years," she told WAMC. "So kind of one of the examples we point to in the letter is if a synagogue, for instance, had a swastika drawn on it, or if there was a racially motivated shooting such as we saw in Boston recently, would the community be able to call on this officer, on WPD, and feel like they could fully provide information about the crime and be served by the department- And we don't think that could happen at this point. And so we do think it's necessary for the officer to be terminated.”
She says the Center’s letter to Williamstown details examples of other communities taking action against hate-based activities among law enforcement officials.
“We’ve seen police departments and police chiefs, again, across the country take action to discipline or terminate officers who engage in activity that can be considered hateful," said Gordon. "So for instance, out in California, there was a police officer who had been affiliating with the Proud Boys, and he was terminated. And our letter provides other examples of police departments who have taken action to really send a clear message that they take this kind 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 on this story. Officer Eichhammer did not respond to a request for comment from WAMC relayed by Interim Police Chief Mike Ziemba.