Friday, July 12, 2024

The November 2016 ceremony in which Lucas Harney became a Cambridge police officer. (Photo: Cambridge Police Department via Facebook)

A decorated Cambridge police officer pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of illegally distributing criminal record information and storing firearms improperly. Lucas Harney, a seven-year veteran and member of the department’s Special Response Team, will be on pretrial probation for a year and undergo substance abuse and mental health evaluations in a resolution agreed to by the Middlesex District Attorney’s office.

The charges will be dismissed if Harney completes the probation and complies with the conditions, spokesperson Sarah Lamson said in an email. Harney’s attorney, Thomas Butters, declined to comment at Somerville District Court on Thursday. The case was heard there instead of Cambridge District Court to avoid any conflict of interest, Cambridge Police Department spokesperson Robert Goulston said; the department initiated the case.

The allegations against Harney were detailed in a different and earlier legal action – the suspension of his firearms license in August 2022 and his appeal to recover it. Police pulled his license after they found out that he had allegedly asked another officer to provide him with information on the criminal record of his sister-in-law’s boyfriend, then gave the information to family members. When officers informed him of the firearms license suspension and he told them he had guns in his personal car, they found two loaded firearms in unlocked compartments in the vehicle, according to findings of Cambridge District Court judge David Frank. Frank denied Harney’s appeal last May.

Police said in the firearms license appeal that as of November 2022 there was a “pending Cambridge Police Department discipline matter and a pending criminal investigation.” Police are still looking into discipline, Goulston said; the criminal investigation resulted in the charges against Harney on Thursday. Harney has been on paid administrative leave since his license was suspended in August 2022, Goulston said. Paid leave is standard until the discipline and criminal case are resolved, he said.

Harney said in an affidavit filed in his firearms appeal case that he had received two commendations in 2019 and one in 2022, including one for helping to prevent a “possible jumper” on a roof from jumping off. He said he was an “avid gun collector” and was certified to teach gun safety courses to people seeking a license.

Harney said he first received a firearms license in 2008, when he was 22. He said he became a Cambridge police officer in November 2016 after volunteering as an auxiliary officer for about six years.

Referring to the allegation that he illegally “disseminated” criminal records information, Harney said in his affidavit that “there is no nexus between a computer infraction and gun ownership.”

Cambridge Police Department actions against an officer rarely come to light. Coincidentally, Harney’s case exposed a gap in public reporting of police discipline as required by the state police reform law that established the Police Officer Standards and Training Commission.

Not posted on Post

The commission is supposed to publish a list of serious disciplinary cases against officers as reported by local departments. Yet there is only one case from Cambridge on the website, and that is for an action taken by the officer’s previous employer.

Goulston said Cambridge has reported almost 200 disciplinary actions to the commission since the first reports were due in December 2021, yet none are on the website. “We have never missed a deadline and we have never requested an extension,” he said. Goulston said Post told the department “they are having a technical issue with some of the larger police departments with posting the data” and that Cambridge police don’t know when Post will solve the problem.

Commission spokesperson Alia Spring agreed that the Cambridge reports have not been posted but gave different reasons. “Since the initial releases of the historical disciplinary database, there have been multiple records not released due to validation and submission errors, including Cambridge,” Spring said. “Records for Cambridge Police are slated to be released in the next update, which is anticipated to be before the end of the month.”

The commission lists Harney as a certified police officer in its most recent posting as of Jan. 5, meaning he can be hired or serve in any law enforcement agency in Massachusetts. Commission spokesperson Spring said certification is valid for three years after it occurs but status could change if “a matter arises” after the certification date. She added that the commission cannot comment on the certification of individual officers.