• Local
  • Pittsfield, MA
  • more weather >
Terry Cowgill
At a Jan. 14 meeting of the town selectboard, Great Barrington Police Chief Bill Walsh tells John Breasted that the town's trust policy was not violated in the recent arrest of an immigrant by Immigration and Customs Enforcement as he waves a copy of the policy.

Breach of town ‘trust policy’ disputed after ICE arrest of immigrant

More Info
By Tuesday, Jan 15, 2019 News 17

Great Barrington — The arrest of an undocumented immigrant worker on Main Street last week has prompted allegations that the Great Barrington Police Department has violated a town policy limiting cooperation with federal authorities on enforcing civil immigration law.

Town resident and activist John Breasted made the allegation at a selectboard meeting Monday night in the wake of the disclosure last week in The Edge that officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement had asked the town police to retrieve the detainee’s medication from his apartment after the detention had been executed. 

Main Street can be seen in the reflection of the streetside window of Patisserie Lenox. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Breasted raised questions about the propriety of the actions of the Great Barrington Police Department after ICE agents entered the police station at approximately 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 8 and asked for assistance in obtaining the medications for Alexis Gkoles, who was arrested by ICE agents as he was walking to Patisserie Lenox, where he worked as a chef.

Breasted read from the so-called “trust policy,” which stipulates that the town will not enforce federal immigration law or aid in the detention, transfer, transport or deportation of residents for civil immigration purposes. Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to read the full text of the policy. 

“There are some complex political, economic and legal issues related to the incident reported in the newspapers,” said Breasted, who urged the selectmen to place the matter on the agenda at their next meeting. “This is something that can’t be handled as a routine administrative matter.” 

See video below of an exchange between John Breasted and Great Barrington Police Chief Bill Walsh:

Breasted further argued that the text of the trust policy put the matter of addressing violations of the trust policy squarely “in the lap of the selectboard.” But Selectman Ed Abrahams defended Walsh and his officers.

“Just to let you know, the police were not involved in the arrest,” said Abrahams, who offered to read from the policy. “Our trust policy was followed completely.” 

Selectboard Chairman Steve Bannon asked Great Barrington Police Chief Bill Walsh if he wanted to address the matter directly. “I’ve got a lot to say,” Walsh replied as he strode to the podium. 

Walsh said his department “played a minimal role in this operation,” that he reported it to his boss, Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin, the next day and that he responded to media inquiries on the incident. Indeed, when contacted by The Edge last week, Walsh provided the police log associated with the incident.

“We got a request from ICE agents around 7:30 that morning,” Walsh explained. “They came into the station and asked us to go and retrieve the bad guy’s — the suspect’s — medicine in his apartment on Main Street.”

Walsh described his department’s cooperation as “a humanitarian effort.” ICE told him it might alarm Gkoles’ neighbors if federal agents in black SUVs, clad in flak jackets and ICE vests, had descended on Gkoles’ apartment.

So ICE asked the local police, whose officers might even know some of the residents, to retrieve Gkoles’ medication. Walsh noted a presumed irony in those who have criticized his department for its role in the incident:

Great Barrington resident John Breasted said of the alleged trust policy violation: ‘This is something that can’t be handled as a routine administrative matter.’ Photo: Terry Cowgill

“If we didn’t do that, I think I would be hearing from some people that we’re bad and mean if we didn’t get the bad guy’s medicine for him.” 

Breasted could be seen shaking his head during that exchange. When he told Walsh his comments were “inappropriate,” Breasted got an earful from the chief.

“No, it’s not, and don’t interrupt me, because I did not interrupt you,” Walsh shouted. “The chairman is running the meeting. And don’t cut me off because you always do that.”

Walsh said he was in Town Hall to “denounce sexual assault, denounce domestic violence and applaud and laud the victim in this case. I haven’t heard that from certain quarters, but I’ve heard the police got the bad guy’s medicine, that that’s a terrible thing we did.”

Indeed, the Berkshire County district attorney’s office has confirmed to The Edge that Gkoles was arraigned in Superior Court on Nov. 15, 2018, and charged with one count of rape alleged to have occurred in December 2017. Gkoles pleaded not guilty and was released on his own recognizance with the condition that he have no contact with the victim. 

“Gkoles was a dual citizen of Albania and Greece,” said Dennis Yusko, who recently became communications director for District Attorney Andrea Harrington. “He was in the U.S. on a visa waiver program that had long since expired.”

Gkoles is presumably still in the custody of federal authorities but a message left for an ICE spokesperson yielded the following reply:

“So I’m here to applaud the victim who came forward with the courage to report it to the police with a statement, working with us for prosecution,” Walsh said of the rape charge. “And I would hope other folks would also join me in denouncing sexual assault.”

Will Curletti, owner of Fuel Coffee Shop in Great Barrington. Photo: Nicholas Dayal

Will Curlietti, who owns the popular Fuel coffee shop, told The Edge that, in front of his shop on the morning of Jan. 8, he saw a pair of black SUVs and two officers—one plain-clothed woman and a man wearing an ICE vest. The man handcuffed Gkoles, put him into a SUV and took him away. The event, which alarmed some of those who witnessed it, was over within a couple of minutes. That’s when ICE asked the Great Barrington Police Department for assistance with the medication.

Bannon said he would decide later in the week whether to place the matter on the agenda for the next selectboard meeting Monday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.


More by »
»

17 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Lois Reynolds says:

    I think it was totally appropriate for the police to assist in order to get the man’s medication…..the man needed his medication and that is it…..and also now we know the reason why ICE was looking for him…..I feel it was necessary for him to be taken back to court to take care of his arrest problems…..

  2. Steve Farina says:

    Is this the only thing disussed at the Select Board Meeting?
    Where is the story about the fact that the “Water bottle ban” enforcement has been put on indefinite hold?
    That is big news here in GB!!

    And, btw, I fully support the role of the GBPD in the actions they took regarding this assistance in retrieving medicine. Their actions were spot on.

  3. Richard M Allen says:

    I’m so confused. The MeToo people tell me I should be outraged that this alleged rapist was out on bail. But the “open borders” people tell me we shouldn’t arrest illegals. What to do? Someone please help me. I don’t think for myself.

    1. Kelly Weikum says:

      Yes let’s support illegals even when they do horrible crime against women.

    2. Brian Tobin says:

      We understand that you don’t think for yourself. You’re a Trump supporter. But let me help you with this case. Both the GBPD and ICE were doing their jobs correctly. Once all the information came out about the rape charge, there’s no question that the suspect needed to be apprehended, and because of the visa overstay issue, it became a federal law enforcement issue as well. See how easy it is to think for oneself when you have all the facts? Try it on other issues of the day and you’ll see how gratifying it can be. Have a nice day!

      1. Richard M Allen says:

        Oh thanks. I never would have figured that out.

  4. Kelly Weikum says:

    Why all the support for illegals over American citizens. If only liberals would put America and American citizens before illegals or foreigners wanting to enter country illegally the partial government shutdown would end

    1. Shawn says:

      Please learn proper grammar and punctuation.

  5. Maggie Buchwald says:

    Did the police chief really refer THREE TIMES to the suspect as “the bad guy”? Do we no longer operate on the presumption of innocence? Unbelievable.

    1. Steve Farina says:

      Certainly not if your last name is Cavanaugh or Moore.

      1. Steve Farina says:

        *Kavanaugh

      2. Jerry says:

        You left off Bill Cosby

  6. Helen says:

    Slow down and think. You are starting to sound a little silly.

    1. No one has ever said someone here illegally shouldn’t be arrested if suspected of a crime that would also be illegal if a citizen did it.
    2. The last comments seem to confuse the presumption of innocence at trial verses a job hunt. Kavanaugh and Moore were not on trial, they were seeking election/appointment to jobs that require an impeccable reputation.
    3. Bill Cosby was found guilty in a court.

  7. John Breasted says:

    1-16-2019

    In an email +letter to Great Barrington Police Chief Walsh on Tuesday, I apologized to him for interrupting him during his remarks in the “Citizen Speak” part of the GB Select Board meeting on Monday evening. SB chairman Steve Bannon reminded me appropriately, directly after the meeting adjourned, that “The Chief is a citizen too, and also has the right to speak [without interruption].”

    I also wrote to chief Walsh, “My regret about my procedural lapse last night does not, however, erase the significant issues raised by the ICE detention incident last week…” and added ” I think I can appreciate at least some of the difficulty of your position in this situation…

    “A town police chief is in the unenviable position of being very exposed to the turbulent winds of public opinion on such a matter. He (or she) is easy for reporters and irate citizens to contact, whereas ICE officers and their commanders are much less accessible. And a town police chief is very exposed, politically, to conflicting pressures, felt thru strong lines of accountability to town manager, elected Select Board members, and, ultimately, to taxpayers and voters at the Annual Town Meeting. The lines of accountability for ICE officers and officials are much less clear and direct. Your accessibility in a situation like the present one can put you on the spot in a way which I can imagine could feel burdensome and unfair.

    “In all three versions of the January 8 incident that I have visualized from your accounts of it, I think the reported action of the police officer to assist the ICE agent, however well intended, violated the spirit and the letter of Article 25 (in three specific paragraphs), passed by voters at our 2017 Annual Town Meeting.

    “Our disagreement on whether provisions of Article 25 were violated in this incident does not diminish my awareness of the difficulty of your position in the matter, or my appreciation for the work you and your officers do. I hope that our Select Board will give a good airing of the issues involved here.

    “These issues exist in the context of recent ICE actions in Berkshire County (since mid-2017, apparently not yet known to and certainly not yet covered by any of our regional news media) that have actually disrupted in an unprecedented way the judicial process for prosecuting felonies in our county’s Superior Court. Attention should be paid to this ominous development (which I have documented, in part, in a recorded, on-the-record interview on November 5, 2018 with a 21-year veteran prosecutor in the Berkshire County District Attorney’s Office). That hard-won judicial safeguards can be (and already have been) eroded by the actions of a federal agency that touts itself as an upholder of law-and-order is only one of the legal and constitutional issues that should concern us as a community, in our relationship with ICE, and in the relationship of our police department with that agency.”

  8. John says:

    Let’s face it, it’s never a very bright idea to interrupt a police officer speaking

  9. Laura C says:

    why do some people of this town do more for the people who are here illegally and have committed a crime than the hard working people who are trying to find a decent job and affordable housing. Shame on his employer for not knowing his visa had expired a long time ago. Was he paying him under the table?

  10. Stephen Cohen says:

    I am not sure of the legal and factual circumstances of how they entered the house, but to obtain mediine for the benefit of the defendant ( apparently needed immediately ), seems like something the police department should be applauded for.

What's your opinion?

We welcome your comments and appreciate your respect for others. We kindly ask you to keep your comments as civil and focused as possible. If this is your first time leaving a comment on our website we will send you an email confirmation to validate your identity.