WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. (AP) -- A Massachusetts select board ruled that it does not have the authority or grounds to fire the police officer that kept a photo of Adolf Hitler in his locker for two decades.
In a statement, the chair of the board, Andrew S. Hogeland said that even if the board had the authority to fire Officer Craig Eichhammer, a 31-year veteran of the department, the termination might not hold because other town officials do not see strong enough grounds for firing, The Berkshire Eagle reported. Civil rights groups have called for Eichhammer's termination.
While the panel cannot fire Eichhammer, it said it found the photo highly offensive and the demands to fire the officer are valid.
Last month, groups like the Berkshire County branch of the NAACP and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law both condemned the officer's actions and called for his termination, the newspaper said.
The groups said the officer's decision to pin a photo of Hitler in the town's police station mimicked actions by hate groups and spread antisemitic rhetoric and views. Eichhammer has said he hung the photo to make fun of a fellow officer who resembled Hitler.
The board's power is limited in these circumstances, Hogeland said. In the past, the board has only had the authority to fire town managers and police chiefs
"We understand, and agree, that an officer having a photo of Hitler in a police locker is unacceptable and is highly offensive to the community," Hogeland said. "(The officer's explanation) does not excuse his actions in posting the photo or keeping it in his locker. We condemn it."