Edgartown approves updated police department policies

File photo by Ralph Stewart

In a step toward accreditation from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission (MPAC), Edgartown selectmen on Monday approved updated rules and regulations for the Edgartown police department. MPAC accreditation is not required for police departments in Massachusetts, but the standards set by the commission ensure that police departments across the state, and ultimately, the country, are uniform.

“This is just the first step,” Chief Dave Rossi told selectmen. “It’s been a while, so they’re updated to new laws now, and we’ve added a couple new policies.”

Lieutenant Chris Dolby, the department’s accreditation manager, said that it’s “pretty straightforward.”

Former police chief Paul Condlin began the process, Lieutenant Dolby said, but didn’t go through with the accreditation procedures.

“It’s a lot of work,” Lieutenant Dolby told selectmen. “It can be kind of overwhelming with other police duties … When the chief [Rossi] and I were promoted, we made it a priority and it continues to be a priority.”

Lieutenant Dolby told selectmen it is the first step in a process of consolidation and updates. “It’s a living document,” he said. “The laws change constantly, the policies change constantly. In our world, one incident stems policy changes. It always has to be tended to.”

Helps with liability
Lieutenant Dolby told The Times Tuesday morning there is a national push to have all police departments be on the same page, using the same policies and procedures.

The push for MPAC accreditation began at the national level, when President Obama released a report in December 2014 on policing nationwide. Standardization is helpful when law enforcement officials move from town to town, or even from state to state, he said, because each official would have a uniform procedure for handling various situations.

“That being said, you have police departments that have 30,000 cops and police departments that have three cops,” Lieutenant Dolby said. “Obviously a police department with three cops can’t quite operate the way a metropolitan police department can. You’re going to have different policies. So it’s a baseline criteria.”

He underscored that the policies and procedures in place for the Edgartown police department already meet MPAC standards, in part because of the initiative of retired Chief Condlin. However, the department has never gone through the MPAC checklists and inspections required to make it official.

As for other benefits, Lieutenant Dolby said that being an accredited department helps decrease police department liability should the department face litigation.

“If you get sued, it’s a lot better for the town and the department to say that we’ve passed these accreditation standards and we’re certified,” he said.

Lieutenant Dolby reiterated that policies must always change to fit the times.

“It helps you hold yourself to the best standards out there,” he said.

Some of the requirements, he said, are as simple as a codified oath of office.

The next round of Massachusetts accreditation issuances is scheduled for next June, and once accreditation is attained, it has to be renewed every three years. The Oak Bluffs police department is already accredited, Lieutenant Dolby said.