An Oak Bluffs detective and 23-year veteran of the police department was terminated by the town selectmen last Friday for what police called a misuse of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services system.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Oak Bluffs police chief Erik Blake said Det. James T. Morse had used the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) system to conduct background checks on people who were not under investigation.

Selectmen called a special meeting Friday afternoon. — Holly Pretsky

Hosted by the FBI in Clarksburg, W.V., the system compiles data from all police departments and law enforcement agencies.

The issue came to light when the Oak Bluffs police department was contacted on Oct. 10 by an outside law enforcement agency conducting a criminal investigation, Chief Blake said in the statement. “The subject of this investigation was a former tenant of Detective James Morse, who is a Falmouth resident.”

An internal investigation followed, Chief Blake said. “In the course of this investigation, Detective Morse was asked if he had utilized the Criminal

Justice Information Services (CJIS) system to conduct any records check on his former tenant. The answers given caused us to conduct a one-year lookback period with CJIS on all subjects run by Detective Morse.”

The results of that audit were received on Oct. 18, the chief said. “We discovered several names of individuals that had no affiliation with or being investigated by this department.”

According to a mutual separation and release agreement made public by the selectmen, Nov. 5 was Detective Morse’s last day of work. Under the agreement, he will be paid accrued time for vacation of $7,686 and accrued compensatory time of $12,746.

Speaking to the Gazette by phone on Wednesday, Chief Blake said the town will not seek charges against Detective Morse, who began as an Oak Bluffs summer officer in 1995 and worked his way up the ranks, eventually becoming a detective in 2014. Mr. Morse is also a practicing attorney and has a law office and a home in Falmouth.

Chief Blake said the results of the investigation and internal audit would be sent to CJIS within 90 days, as required. “They make a determination whether what we did was sufficient or not. That’s who would be making any kind of decision like that, but no, we’re not seeking any charges,” the chief said.

“That really is all there is to it,” Chief Blake continued. “I penned [the statement] purposely to give as much as I possibly could. He wasn’t the target of the initial call to us, and the information about the original call is not mine to give. I felt I needed to make a statement on the background just to be transparent.

“He violated rules and regulations,” the chief continued, “and it never got to a termination disciplinary hearing in front of the selectmen, like when you come in with union lawyers and you sit down and present a case and then they vote. They were only presented with the separation agreement because that’s what he decided to do.” The vote to terminate Detective Morse followed a brief executive session that was attended by all five selectmen, the town administrator and Chief Blake last Friday. The separation agreement was announced at the same time.

“Detective Morse has been separated from service to the town,” selectman and board chairman Gail Barmakian said. “As a personnel matter we have no further comment on the subject.”

Detective Morse did not attend the meeting.

Four days later Chief Blake issued the statement adding further details.

“We consider this matter closed and will be making no further comment,” the statement concluded.

In addition to itemizing payments for accrued vacation and compensatory time, the separation agreement also spells out mutual non-disparagement terms. “Mr. Morse agrees to refrain from making any public statements, including but not limited to social media postings that are critical, derogatory, or which many tend to injure the reputation of the town,” the agreement reads in part. It also states that the town agrees if asked, that it will “confirm his job title and dates of employment and compensation only.”

Also under the agreement, Mr. Morse agreed to waive all rights to sue the town or recover any money by way of a lawsuit.