The Massachusetts Environmental Police say Martha’s Vineyard is a priority for the department. Actions speak louder than words, and what we’re seeing doesn’t demonstrate that the Island is getting the same attention it did in the past from the state agency.
There’s been a revolving door when it comes to environmental police officers on Martha’s Vineyard since 2012, when environmental police officer Matt Bass was reassigned.
That’s not good in a place where hunting, recreational and commercial fishing, shellfishing, and boating are so much a part of daily life for Islanders and the thousands of visitors who flock to the Island during the summer months.
The kind of “one and done” position that the environmental police officer has become doesn’t allow for the continuity and consistency that’s required for such an important job.
Now the state would have you believe that Martha’s Vineyard is a priority. They say boats are out patrolling on a regular basis, and that there have been officers visiting the Island on a regular basis from the Upper Cape.
But the anecdotal evidence just isn’t there.
There’s an Environmental Police vehicle that just sits in a parking lot at Owen Park in Vineyard Haven.
Need more evidence that the presence isn’t what it used to be? Our reporter Barry Stringfellow spoke to Adam Moore, executive director of Sheriff’s Meadow, which controls 2,900 acres of wilderness. “Since Matt Bass was our [environmental police officer], we have had only sporadic contact with his successors,” Mr. Moore said.
Ditto The Trustees of the Reservations, which controls land on Chappaquiddick where the Island’s only oversand vehicle traffic is allowed. It’s a popular spot for shellfishing and deer hunting, but Chris Kennedy, the executive director of the trustees, called his agency’s interaction with environmental police “minimal” since the departure of Mr. Bass and, before him, Bill Searle, who was an Island fixture for three decades.
Mr. Searle lived in Edgartown and won the respect of other law enforcement agencies on the Island, as well as the hunters and fishermen he policed. In other words, he made the kinds of connections that are crucial to doing a good job. Mr. Bass, from all accounts, made those connections, too.
A new officer, Sgt. Ted Whitney, has been introduced as the new environmental police officer for Martha’s Vineyard. He will commute to the Island four days a week, and Cape-based boats will be patrolling Vineyard Sound and Nantucket Sound, we’re told. That sounds like spreading an already thin staff thinner.
We’re certainly open to giving Sgt. Whitney a chance. Hopefully, he’ll stick around for more than a year.