CHARLESTOWN, R.I. — One night in late February 2021, a Charlestown, Rhode Island police officer thought he saw something strange behind a state salt garage barn off Route 1: A Rhode Island State Police trooper appeared to be having sex with a woman in the driver’s seat of his unmarked cruiser.
The Charlestown officer, William Scott Campbell, texted his supervisor, Sergeant David Westervelt.
“There’s a trooper having sex behind the state garage right now,” Campbell wrote. “FYI.”
“WTF,” Westervelt responded.
“I don’t know if you want me to leave that alone or what,” Campbell wrote.
After more conversation, including a brief description, Westervelt responded: “Yea, probably best to leave it.”
That advice was a mistake, the Town of Charlestown acknowledged Friday.
“The incident was not properly reported or recorded by the department at the time,” Charlestown Police Chief Michael Paliotta said in an emailed statement, which accompanied a partially redacted response to an Access to Public Records Act request. “The Chief of Police was not notified, and therefore unable to communicate this information to the Rhode Island State Police in a timely manner.”
Paliotta said that the agency “has taken the necessary corrective actions to remedy this situation and to further train our personnel,” but declined to get into more details about what that specifically meant. Paliotta said he didn’t know about the incident until October.
Rhode Island State Police Colonel James Manni said he did not learn about the incident until Oct. 15, 2021, when Paliotta contacted the state police’s Internal Affairs office. The Internal Affairs captain brought it to Manni, who said he immediately ordered an internal affairs investigation into State Trooper John Gadrow.
“Neither I nor anyone that I know of on the Rhode Island State Police had any information of this allegation before Oct. 15,” Manni said.
Between the incident in late February and Oct. 15, when Manni said he learned about it, Gadrow was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant.
Manni said after finding out about the incident, he recommended termination, which would have triggered a hearing. But Gadrow retiring on Jan. 16 means the hearing will no longer occur.
Manni said Friday that the situation was handled the same way that all state police Internal Affairs matters are handled.
Information about the internal investigation was not available, so it’s not clear what, if anything, the police concluded about what Gadrow was doing that night while he was on duty. Campbell had said he wasn’t able to identify the trooper in the vehicle.
A detailed timeline was unavailable so it’s unclear why the situation took so long to bubble up to the state police, but Charlestown police records offer hints.
Campbell said in a memo that a different sergeant, Robert Petrocelli, called him into his office on Oct. 3, 2021, to ask about activities that might have occurred with respect to a state police cruiser on the third shift.
Campbell said nothing had happened on the third shift, but something had happened back in February, on the second shift. He then told Petrocelli that he’d texted Westervelt about it, including the advice that it was “best to leave it.” He met with the police chief on Oct. 14, 2021, and said the same thing.
The two men had determined via text that the cruiser belonged to Gadrow, based on his license plate. Campbell had told Westervelt the license plate; that’s when Westervelt said it was best to leave it alone. Campbell then asked whose car it was, and Westervelt said, “Gadrow.”
Campbell said he didn’t approach the cruiser. There was also another SUV, not a police car, with out-of-state plates nearby. The cruiser, he said in a text, eventually flashed its lights and took off “like it was no big deal,” Campbell wrote in a text.