Updated 2 pm
Selectmen approved a change to the Edgartown Police Department’s use of force policy Monday. The change comes as nationwide demonstrations rail against systemic racism and police brutality.
The language added to the policy is called “duty to intervene,” where if one officer sees another officer committing an illegal act, the first officer will step in and intervene.
“Though we always have that expectation here that an officer would step in, it is now clearly enumerated in our policy,” Police Chief Bruce McNamee told the board. McNamee also mentioned the department’s policy, put in place in 2018, that forbids using race as a pretext for any police action, which he said his officers have read over again.
The killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis Police officer was the catalyst behind a series of national demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism. Floyd’s death sparked demonstrations and kneel-ins on the Island as well. Island police chiefs issued a joint statement last month expressing their “shock and dismay at the senseless murder of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis.”
Some national and local demonstrations have also called for defunding the police, which does not necessarily mean getting rid of police, but means reducing police budgets and reallocating funds to social services like education, public health, housing, and youth services, with the idea that investing in communities acts as a better deterrent to crime.
In other business, it’s time to switch out the light bulbs in Edgartown.
Speaking to selectmen Monday, energy committee member Alan Strahler presented selectmen with an update on the energy audit being conducted by the committee. According to Strahler, a $102,000 investment would yield a $42,000 yearly cost reduction in electricity with state incentive.
The committee performed energy audits on town buildings such as the library, police department, town hall, highway department, water department, fire department, wastewater department, and the harbormaster’s office. The audits were funded by a Department of Energy Resources grant. Audits on the elementary school and Council on Aging have been paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the library alone, by replacing fluorescent lighting with LED bulbs and upgrading faucet aerators, the town would save $2,500 annually. In total, replacing the lights and faucets would cost $8,800, but an $8,800 incentive from Cape Light Compact would cover the cost of the replacements.
“That is to say, the incentive equals the cost, so this is all free, so at the earliest convenience we could do this and start saving $2,500 a year for the building,” Strahler said.
With more than $59,000 in incentives from Cape Light Compact, the program would pay for itself in just over four years.
This all comes as the town is working to achieve Green Community status, which gives towns a roadmap and financial support if they reduce energy consumption and support renewable energy projects, among other criteria.
Selectman Arthur Smadbeck thanked Strahler and the committee for putting together the data. “It’s an amazing amount of work you’ve put into this so far, and I’m gratefully appreciative of what you’ve done,” Smadbeck said.
Selectmen also approved promoting Officer Will Bishop to sergeant. Bishop graduated from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, and has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He has been a patrol officer in Edgartown for the past 10 years, and before that was a traffic officer.
Several Edgartown restaurants got town approval Monday for outdoor dining as part of the town’s attempt to support businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Edgartown Diner, 19 Raw Oyster Bar, the Port Hunter, Rockfish, and the Wharf will all be using some town property to expand seating outdoors. The Terrace at the Charlotte Inn, Détente, the Atlantic, Seafood Shanty, and Atria will also have outdoor seating, but on their properties.
The town also received $68,000 in CARES Act funds for COVID-19-related reimbursements. Overall, the town has identified $382,912 as COVID-related expenses. Town administrator James Hagery thanked town accountant Amy Tierney for putting together the COVID-19 expenses and submitting them to the state.
Updated to correct state’s $382,912 for Edgartown. —Ed.