Dear Billy T and Somerville/Medford News Weekly Speakup Line,
Below is my letter to the Somerville City Council
Dear Council Members,
Thank you for your service to the community and for hearing the various concerns of Somerville residents. Currently we understand the budget is being reviewed. As residents our top priority issue is the proposed defunding of the police. Two police programs have been attacked. First, the neighborhood bicycle police defunded in a previous year; secondly, the proposed defunding of the COHR PROGRAM.
The bicycle police created a friendly presence, building trust among the residents and a sense of safety. With a pleasant hello, a wave or a brief conversation, the police got to know the people in the community. An ounce of prevention is worth its weight in gold. Lost and lonely teenagers find a source of encouragement and strength through alliances with neighborhood police. The elderly feel more secure as they take their daily walks. A friendly presence of the police brings a decline of crime, such as malicious vandalism, break-ins, purse snatching and assaults on elderly. It is a jail diversion tactic. And being on a bicycle is far more accessible and less intimidating than patrolling a neighborhood in a closed car.
My own experience with Somerville police has been very positive. They were called to our home once. A young man, college student, had entered our home in the wee hours of the morning. Apparently, the front door had been inadvertently left ajar and he wandered up the walkway into our home. He insisted that he lived here; which of course he didn’t. He was mentally confused, dis-orientated, and incoherent. The two officers that arrived were kind, patient but firm. They listened to him and us and finally asked him to leave with them. They went outside and they continued to talk with him for quite a long time, ascertaining his state of mind, etc. Finally, they told him they would take him back to the train station where he could return to his college campus in Rhode Island. He had been out all night binging. There were no threats or undue aggressiveness by the police officers. He responded well to them.
Now, had it been only a social worker, that responded to the call, would such person have had the authority to ‘section’ him, had the young man needed hospitalization? Or would a social worker have had the authority to arrest him had we wanted to press charges for home invasion?
The CHOR PROGRAM which deals with such types of situations and individuals, includes both a social worker working within the police department and police officers. It is effective in its work and should be allowed to continue with both. It would be wrong to defund the program, eliminating the police. Such demands are a biased ideology of nihilism: ‘all police are bad; all authority is resisted: “There is nothing to approve of in the established social order” . As residents, we reject the attempt to dismantle the police department and Somerville community relationships.
28 Crescent St #1 Somerville, MA