Friday, July 8, 2016

A message from Chief Mary Butler

     In light of recent events in Minnesota and Louisiana, and past incidents in Baltimore and Ferguson to name a few, where police response resulted in the loss of life, the Salem Police Department has received a couple of inquiries about what our Department does to provide protections to our citizenry to prevent these types of tragedies and what are standards are for police conduct.
    We appreciate the concerns and inquiries and encourage involvement.  We want to ensure our citizens that we take the responsibility of protecting our community and all its citizens very seriously and we do not take lightly any circumstance that prompts our response to use force.  Massachusetts law enforcement agencies tend to take the lead in the country with training, policies, and response within our communities.  The DOJ recently rolled out their new biased-based training for Police, yet the State of Massachusetts required this training of all its law enforcement officers this past year.   This put the Salem Police Department in its third training on bias-based/cultural diversity training in the last several years.  This training begins at the inception of an officer’s academy training provided by the Mass Criminal Justice Training Council.
      More than 60% of Salem’s sworn personnel have received intense Crisis Intervention Team training to assure understanding of de-escalation techniques and handling those in crisis, including those suffering from cognitive delays, mental health or substance abuse issues.  Use of Force training occurs every year to comply with our standards and any changes to state or national policy which includes the primary directive of the least amount of force necessary.  Officers have received training in conflict resolution and problem solving.  Our policies direct our response whether through arrest, handling of prisoners, traffic enforcement, use of force, response to calls, training, civil disturbances, domestic violence, or handling transgender populations, to name a few.  All of these policies fall within the requirements of the State Accreditation standards which have been met by this department and have been again reviewed in May.   Within these policies and procedures includes rules of conduct and the forms of disciplinary actions and hearings of conduct.  .  We have been working with the City’s IT Department to have our non-tactical P&P uploaded to website, which we hope will be accomplished soon.
The Salem Police Department initiated an outside company to review the Department’s policies and procedures, staffing, and responses.  This company is still in the process of review and several Salem citizens have a seat at the table to review the report and to assist in instituting any changes that may be recommended.   As stated earlier, we encourage involvement and have three current citizen groups assisting this department.  Community engagement is not just a term, but it is a philosophy of approach within our community to foster and enhance the police-community relationship.  This requires ongoing effort to maintain this relationship.  As such we have police beat officers and sergeants attend the neighborhood meetings regularly.  We conduct the Citizen’s Police Academy and Youth Citizen’s Police Academy to engage with our citizens, form relationships, share what we do, and gain valuable feedback.  This year for Salem, on August 2nd at the Common, we will co-sponsor our first National Night Out in partnership with Target and other local businesses to promote awareness, safety, and neighborhood unity.  
In April of this year, one of our Officer’s was nearly shot with the bullet passing his head in close proximity.  The officer did not draw his weapon and return fire, but pursued the suspect on foot.  I think that shows great restraint in an extremely life-threating situation.  This action and the substantial amount of training and oversight of our officers should provide the citizens of Salem with some confidence that this is a professional organization.
     The Salem Police Department, in cooperation with the City’s No Place For Hate Committee has developed and initiated the first state required Diversity Awareness program for court involved individuals who have committed hate crimes, civil rights crimes, or bias-based crimes.  This has been a three year process and it is now being looked at to provide this at the Juvenile Court level and to be developed even further into a bullying response program for our Schools in cooperation with the Superintendent.  
Decisions that affect our entire community will not just be made by the Police Department, or a few individuals, it will be a collective community response.  We may not always get things right, but we certainly strive to achieve this and the input and feedback of the community is an important component.
     The Salem Police Department have concerns about the police actions in other states that are negatively affecting their citizenry and a deep heartfelt concern for all those in Dallas who were peacefully protesting, who were placed in overwhelming fear due to the actions of a few, and those officers who were there to ensure their safety.  A select group of persons brought those problems to the community of Dallas. Our prayers go out to all the people, citizens and officers alike, who have lost their lives in these tragic incidents.  Families have lost fathers, brothers, sons – loved ones.  As a Police Department we recognize the importance of all lives, and especially those who have been or feel victimized.  We strive for peace in our community and elsewhere in our Nation.  Ronald Reagan said, “Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means”.   Pope Paul VI said, “If you want peace, work for justice”.  This justice does not mean an eye for an eye, because violence only begets more violence.  It really means that fairness is the standard to be administered, both legally and philosophically every day, everytime.  Working together we can achieve this.
    To all those who work hard to make Salem a great community, government leaders, residents, and businesses, thank you.  For all the officers and dispatchers who strive to ensure we have a safe and peaceful community, thank you.
                         Mary E. Butler
                        Chief of Police