A former police officer in Walpole, Massachusetts, is facing sexual assault charges for allegedly inappropriately touching another police officer while she was driving after a night at a restaurant last year.
Christopher Mackenzie was a deputy police chief in Walpole, in the same department as the alleged victim's husband, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday. The victim is a police officer in a nearby town and knew Mackenzie because of her.
The incident happened in May 2019, when Mackenzie met several people at a local restaurant. The victim said it became clear to several people at the party that Mckenzie was "extremely intoxicated," so the decision was made to have someone else drive his department vehicle from the bar, according to the complaint.
During the ride to Mackenzie's home, he allegedly reached over the center console of the vehicle and grabbed the woman's thigh, telling her his wife was away for the weekend.
Immediately after the incident, the woman told another driver who had followed her to Mackenzie's house, as well as her husband, according to the complaint. The allegations reached the police chief in July, and Mackenzie was placed on leave.
According to the complaint, Mackenzie claimed at the time that he didn't remember the ride home and that "booze got the better of him that evening."
No one answered the door at Mackenzie's home when NBC10 Boston attempted to make contact.
Walpole's town administrator referred questions about MacKenzie's criminal case to Police Chief John Carmichael. In a statement, Carmichael said he cannot comment on the situation "since the individual is a former employee and there is an ongoing criminal matter."
Carmichael added that the Norfolk County District Attorney's office has accepted the case, which has been assigned to a special prosecutor.
Records uncovered by the NBC10 Boston Investigators show town leaders discussed the allegations against MacKenzie in closed-door meetings months before he was charged in court.
Minutes from a non-public meeting of the town's Board of Selectmen show the board and the town's lawyer and police chief discussed a draft agreement allowing MacKenzie to resign in early August 2019.
Two months later, while those discussions were still ongoing, MacKenzie surfaced as the top candidate to become police chief in Seekonk.
Seekonk Town Administrator Shawn Cadime told officials in that town that after screening 27 applicants for the job, MacKenzie was his top pick to lead the police department. He cited MacKenzie's two decades of experience in Walpole and his prior management training.
"His skills, accomplishments, his poise, professionalism, and his experience stood out to the committee," he told selectmen.
Cadime abruptly suspended the nomination two weeks later, however, saying only that "new information" about MacKenzie had surfaced.
"There was some new information that has come to light, so I'm going to make the recommendation that we move on from Mr. MacKenzie," he said.
Responding to questions from NBC10 Boston Monday, Cadime said he wouldn't discuss specifics of that decision, but in a written statement, Cadime said, "there was an issue that came to my attention that I did not feel comfortable with so I made the decision to remove him as a finalist for the [position] of Police Chief."
MacKenzie's resignation in Walpole was finalized in November, according to documents obtained by the NBC10 Boston Investigators.
MacKenzie's wife serves on the Walpole Board of Selectmen, but did not participate in the August discussion about his departure from the department.
The Walpole Police Department refused a request made by NBC10 in December 2019 to release the citizen complaint filed against MacKenzie last year, claiming the record is exempt from disclosure because it pertains to an ongoing investigation, and also because it views the complaint as a personnel record.
An official in Secretary of State William Galvin's office ordered the department on Friday to provide the state's Public Records Division with a copy of the complaint to determine whether it should be released. The state's decision was still pending Monday.
Mackenzie is set to be arraigned in March.