By Janet Leombruno
FRAMINGHAM – Police Officer Charlie Burkis, Jr., the namesake for the Square in downtown, ability to diffuse difficult situations and challenging individuals is legendary.
The Square is named for the beat cop, because he could cajole a hellion with a movie pass, sober an intoxicated individual with a coffee, or convince a troublemaker with his use of the law.
While I did not know Charlie, as people called him, the stories of his ability to coordinate engagement to provide a safe space for customers and workers, neighbors and visitors, are sorely needed today.
This multidisciplinary approach successfully used by Framingham and other communities on and off over the years needs to be employed by us again.
First, we need leadership to convene law enforcement, public health, social service and business leaders to compassionately address this small group of individuals. We need to stop the finger wagging at each other and the media, and get to the hard work of making our streets safe for all of our residents.
As chair of Town Meeting Committee on Public Safety for many of my 14 years on Town Meeting, I am familiar with the policies and procedures, work and personnel of our Police Department. We have many dedicated and capable law enforcement professionals employed by us.
Second, we need to do much more to hire, retain and support our dedicated men and women in blue. They have difficult enough jobs without forcing them to work a double shift, respond to calls without sufficient backup, or non-law enforcement support.
The Mayor should immediately reassign one of our social workers to lead this last effort, finalize negotiations of their contracts, work to improve the Department’s low morale, and hire 25 officers to fill the vacant positions.
There has been much discussion about indecent and/or criminal behavior in Burkis Square.
Here is a thoughtful multi-disciplinary approach used by Chelsea that Framingham Deputy Chief Lester Baker talked about at the Coburnville Tripoli Neighborhood meeting. It is time to reinstate this approach in our downtown. Please watch this short video:
And lastly, we need to extract all the emotionally charged political rhetoric from this conversation. We need to listen to everyone’s concerns, treat those involved with respect, and work together to achieve one of our local government’s primary missions: keeping its citizens safe.
Downtown Framingham has always had its share of challenges. Working together, we will overcome this too. We have done this before and we will do it again.
Janet Leombruno is a member of the Framingham Housing Authority, former longtime Town Meeting Member, and candidate for At-Large Councilor.