To The Great Barrington Community:
Please see the following statement put out by the President of Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. It talks about many issues important to all of us. It also references the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing which was released by President Obama in 2015. I’m pleased to report to you that in 2016 I visited the White House for a seminar on the Task Force. Since then the Great Barrington Police Department has worked hard to institute the recommendations mentioned. I invite everyone to visit our webpage and under “About Us” see all of the work we’ve done. We have an ongoing internal committee meeting every few months to continuously address these pillars. Feel free to contact me should you have any questions. Thank you for always supporting the GBPD.
Citizens have likely reached out to you, or other municipal officials, asking how your department is developing ways to “reduce killings by police and save lives.” Chiefs should be reminded that these issues are mostly nonstarters here in Massachusetts. Massachusetts law enforcement agencies have long been in front of the curve when it comes to the advancement of police procedures designed to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens we protect. In particular, our Massachusetts Police Officers have thoroughly embraced the six pillars of the principles embodied in the final report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and remain committed to professional conduct, democratic policing and procedural justice for all people. In response to the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs drafted a response in September of 2015, addressing each of the pillars therein.
With respect to the 8 policies that departments should adopt, below is how each is addressed in Massachusetts:
- Ban chokeholds & strangleholds – These techniques are not part of the defensive tactics curriculum as instructed by the Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC).
- Require de-escalation – Officers are required to learn de-escalation during the MPTC recruit academy training program, and further, are required to undergo additional de-escalation training during the annual in-service training programs as required by the MPTC.
- Require warning before shooting – Consistent with the standards set forth in Graham v. Connor and Tennessee v. Garner, officers may only use that level of force that is objectively reasonable based upon the totality of circumstances. Officers will always attempt to use the lowest level of force in order to effectuate the lawful objective and will attempt to warn individuals prior to using any level of force, provided that they have the time and opportunity to do so. There may be, however, some very limited instances, where it is impossible for officers to provide a warning prior to using force, such as when doing so is necessary in order to preserve human life.
- Requires exhaust all alternatives before shooting – Same as above.
- Duty to intervene – All officers are trained and required to intervene when they recognize that any other officer or supervisor, of any rank, is acting contrary to the law or policy.
- Ban shooting at moving vehicles – Officers are not permitted to shoot at a moving vehicle, except in the very limited circumstance where, consistent with the standard set forth in Graham v. Connor and Tennessee v. Garner, doing so is required to defend themselves or another when the occupants of the vehicle are employing deadly force, which the officer reasonably perceives as an immediate threat of death or serious physical injury to themselves or another (including situations where the vehicle itself is being used as a deadly weapon and the officer is unable to escape the path of travel), and the officer reasonably believes that they will not endanger innocent persons. It is imperative that officers not position themselves in such a way as to create a likelihood of being struck by an occupied vehicle.
- Require use of force continuum – Officers are all trained to use only that level of force objectively reasonable based upon the totality of the circumstances.
- Require comprehensive reporting – Offices are required to complete a use of force report for each instance where force is used.
Some questions were raised at our recent Town Meeting and in the interest of transparency here are some answers.
We do not use military type weapons. We do not have personnel carriers, rubber bullets or use crowd control pepper spray. Great Barrington was the sight of one of the earliest active shooters in modern U.S. history. The shooter used an assault rifle to kill two and injure several others. Should such an incident occur today, the victims would want the local police to be responding with weapons equal to what the assailants are using. That’s all we have. That’s not militarization.
A recent survey by a member of the Finance Committee found that GBPD is either budgeted fairly equally with other areas departments our size or in some cases, budgeted less.
The Great Barrington Police Department does not and NEVER has participated in the Federal Government’s Military Weapon Distribution Program.
We have a highly trained and professional Internal Affairs Unit to investigate police misconduct. At times, this includes assistance from the highly trained and professional District Attorney’s State Police Detective Unit. We follow an accredited policy to guide this work.
We support Governor Baker’s recently proposed legislation calling for statewide Peace Officer Training and Standards (POST).
We support the Governor’s proposed legislation to create a police certification and decertification system. Massachusetts is among a handful of states without certification. This will greatly enhance accountability and transparency for our profession.
The GBPD is a leader in providing training to all officers in Implicit bias, de-escalation, crisis intervention and health and mental wellness.
Chief William Walsh