FRAMINGHAM – The Framingham Police Officers’ Union sent an email to Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer and Chief Steven Trask suggesting reforms in the department, earlier this month.
The three initiatives were to expand the jail diversion program, create a neighborhood outreach unit, and increase training for officers.
“In response to the senseless murder of George Floyd, I have had countless conversations with the Framingham Police Officers’ Union executive board and our officers. The end result of these conversations is always that we want to be part of the solution, and more importantly, we want every member of the Framingham community to know we are here for them. We have taken the time to outline several initiatives which we believe will provide the necessary knowledge and tools for Framingham police officers to continue to uphold the highest standard of law enforcement,” wrote Union President Ryan Porter to the Mayor and the police chief on June 8.
In the email the union leadership wrote “on behalf of the men and women of the Framingham Police Officers’ Union, we want to express our utter dismay, disgust, and disappointment at the murder of George Floyd. Although the officers have been fired and the charges have been filed, the damages that have been done to our nation, our society, and our profession, have been immeasurable. In the wake of these troubling events, we have been proud of the way in which this City, and in particular our City’s
youth, has responded. Please know that we see the anger, we hear the frustration, and we share in the pain.”
“We understand that given the current state of affairs in the country there is increased pressure on city, community, and police leadership to address the public concern of law enforcement within our City. With a dialogue opening around police work and how our public servants can better serve the people for whom we work, we feel that the Framingham Police Officers’ Union is in a position to be part of the solution,” wrote Framingham Police Officers Porter, Brian Curtis, & Christopher Hendry.
“First and foremost, we respectfully request that the Framingham Police be looked at in its own light, and not necessarily under the spotlight of policing in general,” asked the union leadership of the police chief and the Mayor.
“We are one department of 357 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and just one department of 17,985 in the United States. One of the strengths of this City and this department has been its willingness to self-reflect and ask difficult questions,” wrote the Union. “We received high praise in the Flagg Report regarding our ability to police fairly, impartially, and in a way that respects those who we are tasked to serve.”
The 2018 Flagg Report wrote “Because of the professional commitment
and belief in best practices that both the Administration and Officers have to police work, Framingham has not had to confront widespread concerning issues in other cities like overuse of force, inappropriate
treatment of minority populations and a lack of trust in the community.”
That 2018 Flagg Report said there were no grounds for “concern about overuse of force, unlawful search or seizure, biased policing, disrespect for minority populations or disadvantaged populations.
We proudly stand by the results of this study,” wrote union leadership to the Mayor & chief.
“Based on our training, field experiences, and understanding of key issues in law enforcement, we would like to make the following recommendations that would allow us to promote safety and equity in Framingham,” wrote the union.
Create a Neighborhood Outreach Unit
“Public trust is the foundation of success in policing. However, most people only see and speak with us on their worst days. We want to be visible, approachable, and responsive to our community’s needs. Therefore, we recommend the creation of dedicated Neighborhood Outreach
Unit that will follow two core concepts: Problem-Oriented Policing and Offender-Based Policing,” wrote union leadership.
“Opening lines of communication with community leaders and residents will allow such a team to identify and correct small issues before they impact the quality of life in Framingham or evolve into issues requiring emergency police response<‘ wrote the union leaders.
“By working closely with our recommended Behavioral Health Unit and the current Downtown Unit, the Neighborhood Outreach Unit can work with local organizations such as FHA, PES, SMOC, and Framingham District Court to reduce recidivism and encourage preemptive intervention for repeat offenders,” wrote the trio of union leaders to the Mayor & the police chief.
Expand Framingham’s Jail Diversion Program
In 2003, a Jail Diversion Program, was established in Framingham and it has become a model for law enforcement throughout the Commonwealth.
This program allows officers to work with certified mental and behavioral health clinicians to address the needs of vulnerable populations who often come into contact with our officers.
“We recommend expanding this program to fill coverage gaps on weekends and in late night/early morning hours,’ said the union leadership to Mayor Spicer.
“Additionally, we recommend working with Advocates to research other successful models, such as the Portland Police Bureau (Portland, OR) Behavioral Health Unit, which provides a basic level of training for all officers. The unit is comprised of a dedicated group of officers who are cross-trained with clinicians to provide advanced assistance in behavioral health service calls,” wrote the Union to the city’s mayor and police chief.
Training for Police Officers
Finally, the union wants to ensure there is robust training in racial bias, de-escalation, and use of force training for its membership.
“The duties of law enforcement officers are rapidly evolving. Responses requiring life-saving measures due to drug overdoses, issues related to the legalization of marijuana, and public health needs related to COVID-19 represent just a sampling of new issues that require a well-trained, adaptive police force. While training budgets across the state have been reduced or kept at level funding for years, the recent events in Minneapolis and across the nation have demonstrated how dangerous it can be when officers who are not experienced or confident in their understanding of the correct protocols are placed in intense and potentially life-threatening situations,’ wrote the Union leaders.
“We recommend the Framingham Police Department work with other area agencies, including the Municipal Police Training Committee, to ensure that our officers receive adequate and ongoing reality-based training,” wrote the union leaders.
Porter said Mayor Spicer did respond to the June 8 letter, but he would not say what she wrote.
“The men and women of the FPOU take their oath seriously and embody it every day on the streets of Framingham. We are fortunate to work in a diverse, welcoming environment with strong community values. Our membership is similarly diverse, with eight languages spoken and
demographics that nearly mirror that of the City which we serve,” wrote union ledership.