In response to your inquiry regarding whether I had a response to the May 25, 2021, Finance Committee Meeting that included a presentation on the police department’s history of reform recommendations and resultant changes during the past twenty years, I have attached an initial response.
We appreciate the community’s interest in the history and evolution of the Somerville Police Department, particularly as we move forward with engaging the community in reimagining policing.
Twenty years have passed since the 2001 Management Study, and the police department has not just undergone significant reforms since that time, we have been lauded for leading the way for others. Examples include national and regional recognition in a number of areas including the National Alliance on Mental Health Illness (NAMI) award for SPD’s Jail Diversion Program, the New England Association of Chiefs Community Policing Award, and achievement of the “Accreditation” status.
It is unfortunate that the presentation nonetheless sought to portray the Somerville Police Department as resistant to change while ignoring the vast majority of recommended reforms from 2001 that this department implemented, as well as the advances that have gone well beyond it. The department is working to provide clarification on some of the points discussed during the Finance Committee meeting that lacked the context needed for a more complete and accurate understanding of these reforms and of the department.
I have deep respect both for community members who seek the best public safety approaches as well as for the members of the Somerville Police, both sworn and civilian, who strive daily to protect and serve. SPD is working closely with the City’s new Racial and Social Justice Director to support her efforts, and my hope is that we will move forward together with the community to have a productive and inclusive process on reimagining policing.