Yesterday, the Special Community/Police Task Force released its recommendations regarding police “use of force”. The Special Community/Police Task Force is a result of collaborative efforts between community and law enforcement leaders. The task force was created to examine areas of concern related to law enforcement and the community as part of a broader effort to strengthen trust and increase transparency of law enforcement operations.
Our department has embraced and supported the process from the beginning and has also participated in the effort. Yesterday the task force released sixty recommendations and I am pleased to say the Fitchburg Police Department has implemented or is already in the process of implementing many of them.
One of our department’s core philosophies, emphasized in both the task force’s report and The President’s Report on 21st Century Policing, is partnering and engaging with the community. All of our patrol officers are geographically assigned to areas of the city in order to cultivate meaningful relationships with business owners, community organizations, landlords, neighborhood associations and residents. We also seek to participate in, and host as many community events as possible in order to allow for positive interactions with community members of all ages.
Along with the community engagement component of the recommendations, we are also invested in using technology to increase accountability and transparency. We have utilized video cameras in all of our squad cars for many years. We also utilize cameras attached to all of our Tasers and we are in the beginning phase of implementing body worn cameras.
In addition to the topics of community engagement and the use of technology I also wanted to highlight some of the other recommendations we have already implemented:
•Training personnel in crisis intervention in order to most effectively assist individuals experiencing mental health emergencies. Over 25% of our personnel have received the week-long training.
•Training on implicit bias and evaluating situations to more effectively utilize appropriate tactics in a dynamic environment.
•Modifying policy regarding the use of Tasers, to allow officers to better utilize discretion in certain situations.
We recognize there are no immediate fixes to many of the challenges facing both law enforcement and our community as a whole, but we are pleased to be a part of the process to address these challenges. We will continue to evaluate these recommendations for future implementation and look forward to the additional work of the task force.
-Chief Thomas Blatter
Read the recommendations of the task force here: https://www.unitedwaydanecounty.org/wp-content/uploads/Special-Community-Police-task-force-report.pdf