NEW BEDFORD — A New Bedford police sergeant who works in the department’s family services unit — which handles domestic violence cases — is under internal investigation for her alleged actions while off duty relating to a domestic violence incident, after which two women were charged.
Sgt. Sasha Vicente, 34, was allegedly in the driver’s seat of a vehicle “waiting” outside as two other women forced entry into the complainant’s residence. Those two women destroyed or damaged property worth about $8,400, including jet skis, a passport and a laptop, per police reports.
The complaint alleges that one of the women left the scene in the car with Vicente. Vicente did not enter the residence, per the police report.
The complainant’s ex-partner, Jahira Woody, 29, of New Bedford, was charged in connection with the early morning Sept. 18 incident. So was a second defendant, Justice Faria, 28. The complainant alleged that she’d seen Woody, Faria, and Vicente together at a bar in downtown New Bedford earlier in the night.
Woody and Faria each face a charge of property vandalism, a felony, and misdemeanor charges of breaking and entering and trespassing. Woody pleaded not guilty during her arraignment in New Bedford District Court on Oct. 4. The clerk’s office for criminal cases had no information on how Faria pleaded. The next court date for Woody and Faria is set for December.
Vicente has not been charged with a crime related to the incident, per the police reports. She did not respond to questions and requests for comment by phone, email, or mail.
Police Chief Paul Oliveira said there is an open internal investigation into the matter, and walked away from The Light’s reporter before answering further questions. He declined to answer questions by email. Department spokesperson Lt. Scott Carola said the chief would not be commenting as “it is a personnel matter.”
The incident report lists two victims in addition to a third person, categorized as a “witness,” and a fourth, Vicente, categorized as “other.”
Woody’s attorney, Timothy Walsh, said by email that neither he nor Woody had a comment on the matter.
Faria and her attorney, Donna Bentley, could not be reached by phone or in person.
Police officers have a responsibility to act while off duty under certain circumstances.
Under the New Bedford police’s general department rules, police officers, including when off duty, “shall provide police services should they be needed to prevent or stop any felony or breach of the peace or assist with any emergency situation.”
Officers, either on or off duty, shall not conduct themselves in a manner that “casts doubt on their integrity, honesty, moral judgment, or character,” states the department’s Standards of Conduct directive.
“All officers shall conduct themselves, both on and off duty, in a manner that reflects high ethical standards consistent with the values and mission established by this department and the expectations of the community we serve,” the directive says.
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Chief Oliveira did not respond to questions about whether the family services unit, which Vicente works in, was investigating or had investigated the Sept. 18 incident, which a police report describes as involving “domestic violence.” The incident does not appear to be included in the department’s incident logs, which are posted online. Carola said confidentiality laws require that the department omit all “domestic-related reports” from the logs.
Margaret Drew, a professor at UMass Law who specializes in domestic violence cases, reviewed the police report of the September incident. Destroying property, she said, is a form of domestic violence and intimidation.
Domestic violence can occur between current partners, or those who were previously in a “substantive” dating or engagement relationship, whether or not they live together, according to Massachusetts law.
“There are some police officers who are very good at working with survivors of abuse. But there are others who are not … This sort of event discourages survivors from contacting the police, which is a serious problem,” Drew said of the allegations in the police report.
The allegations about Vicente in the police report are problematic for people in the community who experience domestic violence, said Hayat Bearat, professor and interim director of the Domestic Violence Clinic at the Northeastern University School of Law, after reviewing the report.
After the Sept. 18 incident, a responding police officer advised the complainant of her rights, including the right to seek a restraining order. Bearat said people can obtain such orders when a partner or ex-partner attempts to cause or has caused physical harm, or places the person in fear of imminent and serious physical harm — both forms of domestic violence.
The Light filed public records requests regarding the internal investigation with the city solicitor’s office. The city is withholding the responsive records, stating that the internal investigation remains ongoing and is thus exempt from disclosure under state records law.
Email Anastasia E. Lennon at email@example.com.