In an effort to promote transparency and share more information about the work being done by the North Reading Police Department, Chief Michael Murphy wishes to share the follow message with residents:
“I am proud of the members of the North Reading Police Department and how they serve our community. Our officers are intelligent, caring, engaged with our community, and serve our citizens with common sense. The North Reading Police Department has enjoyed years of positive support and trust from the community and we cannot thank the residents enough. It means a lot to us. We want to maintain that trust.
“Over the past two weeks, I’ve watched and learned a lot about police misconduct and the systemic injustices that are present in the criminal justice system, just as many of our community members have. I’m disheartened, appalled and offended that any person sworn to serve in our profession would treat any human being any differently because of the color of their skin.
“Law enforcement agencies throughout the country need to listen to the messages of the protesters and not view them as personal attacks. Most protesters want what we already expect from all law enforcement officers: integrity, compassion, empathy, transparency, accountability, and respect for all.
“In North Reading and throughout Massachusetts, we pride ourselves on evolving to be a solution to quality-of-life challenges, and are fortunate to work in a state where officers must meet high standards for their training and are highly vetted. From providing mental health resources to helping people access treatment services for substance use, our officers and staff want to help, not arrest. In 2018, we hired Mental Health/Substance Abuse Clinician Laura Miranda, which is a great example of the shift of resources. Her hiring was intended to reduce the interactions that officers had with people suffering from mental health and substance use. Her job is to get them and their families the help they need. Patrol officers had been doing that for years, but now we have a professional clinician stepping in. Officers can call her anytime for consultation and all of these cases get a full follow-up.
“In addition to that, the North Reading Police Department has been a state-accredited agency through the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission (MPAC) since 2011. We went through a vigorous assessment process in October 2018 to ensure the department is continuing to follow the principles that are considered best practices for law enforcement, including use-of-force policies, professional development benchmarks and accountability standards.
“It’s understandable that residents want to know more about how we manage certain situations. We want to be transparent. Change is coming for policing in America. In some departments, that change is long overdue. Transparency and accountability to our community is at the forefront of our mission. That doesn’t mean we won’t be listening, learning and changing for the better. We owe it to our community, our officers and law enforcement across the country.”
The following is an overview of additional key policies, campaigns, and outreach efforts used by the North Reading Police Department:
- Emphasis on reality-based scenario exercises including simulator training which places a strong focus on de-escalation techniques. Choke holds are not taught nor authorized.
- Bias-based officer training is offered every three years including recognizing racial profiling, gender-based and sexual orientation discrimination, and cultural sensitivity.
- Forty percent of North Reading Police Department staff are trained in Crisis Intervention Training as part of the One Mind Campaign designed to ensure successful interactions between police and persons affected by mental illness. To participate in the One Mind Campaign, a department must train at least 20 percent of their staff..
- The entire department in Autism awareness and best practices for interactions with those with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
- The North Reading Police Department uses Integrating Communications Assessment and Tactics (ICAT), a decision-making model to assist officers in assessing situations and making safe and effective decisions. The goal of ICAT is to enhance both public and officer safety.
- Two North Reading Police Department staff participated in a cross-department exchange with Kent, England to train in mental health policies, substance use prevention and treatment, de-escalation, and restorative justice systems.
- North Reading Police officers and staff have completed seven Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) intensive trainings on topics including mental health, primary prevention, and engagement with youth.
- The North Reading Police Department moved to Non-Civil Service hiring practice in 2018 to expand the candidate pool.
- Preference given to candidates with college degrees and military experience.
- Enhanced hiring practices implemented included psychological evaluations.
- New hire probation period extended to 12 months from swearing-in date.
- Non-law enforcement professionals involved in the command staff interviews and hiring process.
- Any use-of-force incidents, show or display of a weapon (including unholstered taser or firearm) requires a report and a review by a commanding offier. These reviews are audited annually by command staff to identify any behavior patterns and/or training needs.
- Any allegation of excessive force or of racial, gender or bias requires review by command staff.
- The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office is notified of any officer activity that may rise to the standard of criminal activity.
- Citizen survey results are reviewed by command staff. Citizen complaints and outcomes are posted in annual reports.
- Any identified potential conflict of interest results in hiring of an outside, independent agency to conduct investigation.
- Internal ethics policies are reviewed annually. Staff complete Massachusetts State Ethics Commission training every two years and review its policies annually.
- All supervisors have been trained in the FBI LEEDA Trilogy Program designed to enhance leadership skills and accountability among command staff.. Staff also completed the “Polishing the Badge” leadership development seminar.
- The North Reading Community Impact Team (CIT) was formed in 2012 and designed to bring multiple stakeholders together to address quality-of-life challenges.
- The North Reading Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition was formed in 2016 and has 39 volunteer and staff members to-date representing over a dozen sectors.
- Officers and staff are available at public events including bi-monthly Coffee with a Cop hosted at O’Leary Senior Center, the annual National Night Out, Parent University, Back to School Nights and more.
- Substance abuse treatment and mental health resources are available through multiple events and public and private avenues of communication.
- The department’s Mental Health/Substance Abuse Clinician hosts office hours at O’Leary Senior Center monthly, through appointment and drop-in as requested. Over 12 presentations on mental health, substance abuse prevention, anxiety, accessing resources, and stress reduction were presented to-date during the COVID-19 shutdown.
- A full-time Mental Health/Substance Use Clinician was hired in 2018 to pro-actively provide access to care and reduce law enforcement interactions.
- The department’s Clinician and professional partners host 12-15 community free mental health workshops annually.
- North Reading Police’s mental health policy and referral strategies were revised and updated in 2018, and are reviewed annually.
- Mental health support training for the Youth Action Team was provided in 2020.
- Partnering with professionals and experts, the department has provided suicide prevention workshops to the community.
- The North Reading Crisis Resource Guide and Health and Safety Guide is updated
Substance Abuse Prevention/Treatment and Resources
- The department hired a full-time Substance Abuse Prevention Director in 2014, funded by a federal grant. Utilizing the Seven Strategies for Community Change, all substances are targeted to prevent youth use and provide family support.
- The Substance Abuse Coalition graduated from the National Coalition Academy in 2018 after completing its strict data-based requirements.
- Mental Health/Substance Abuse Clinician offers treatment referrals for all substances. Participation in the Sheriff’s Data Driven Justice Initiative assists in analyzing information to better assist the clinician in maximizing outreach.
- Free Naloxone training is offered to the community and school nurses.
- Officers carry mental health and substance use treatment resource bookmarks in all cruisers. Officers and staff participate in the Social Services Action Team’s Resource Fair, and a comprehensive list of resources for mental health and substance use provided via water bills.
- Topical parent alerts are distributed through North Reading Public Schools, social media and print media.