Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake became president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association (MCOPA), at a ceremony in Falmouth on Thursday, December 12.
“It means a lot to be voted by your peers,” said Chief Blake. “The ceremony was excellent. Representative Tim Madden spoke. It was a great event. My honor guard was there. A lot of the Oak Bluffs Police Department was there. A few guys had to stay behind to keep an eye on the town. My kids were there, my girlfriend was there. It was pretty special.”
Chairman of the Oak Bluffs selectmen Walter Vail and selectman Greg Coogan also attended the ceremony.
Chief Blake will serve a one-year term. He began his path to president four years ago when he was elected sergeant-at-arms of the MCOPA. “I ran for office in 2009,” he said. “You move up through the chairs after you get elected.”
Approximately 400 chiefs of police are members of MCOPA, from cities, towns, and college campuses all over the state. The MCOPA serves to advance professional police services; promote enhanced technical and operational police practices; and foster the exchange of information among police leaders throughout the Commonwealth, according to a press release.
As MCOPA president, Chief Blake will oversee 14 committees. A good deal of his time will be spent overseeing lobbying efforts at the State House. “A lot of my job is trying to get our state legislative agenda passed,” he said. “Part of it is also to kill bills that we think will hinder law enforcement.”
At the top of the MCOPA agenda are firearms laws. In Massachusetts, police chiefs have the authority to refuse a gun permit for “suitability” reasons, such as felony convictions or a history of mental illness.
“The state is going to make changes to the laws, and as chiefs, we want to be heard,” he said. “There’s some common sense changes that need to be made. I’ve been pushing personally for years to clean up the law. It’s confusing and vague and it’s hard to follow.”
Chief Blake pointed out that under Massachusetts law, a person who is deemed unsuitable for a license to carry a handgun may still get a firearms identification card, which allows that person to own a shotgun or a rifle.
“You’re unsuitable for one but okay for the other? It makes no sense,” he said. “We’re also looking to make some positive changes for people who are really into the Second Amendment. Right now it takes a long time to renew your license. It says after 90 days your license is no good. We’re trying to change that so if you have a license in process, then your license is still good. We want to make sure people who are trying to do it right aren’t made a criminal.”
Chief Blake will also be working to better coordinate multi-jurisdictional police response in the immediate aftermath of a large scale event, incorporating lessons learned from the Boston Marathon bombings.
“That’s the exciting part for me. As a chief you hear about decisions being made, it’d be nice to have a voice in it. Well, now I have a voice in it,” he said.