The national spotlight is focused on policing practices, particularly involving mental health and racial equity.
So, what is Shelburne doing to address these concerns? This was my question when I wrote to Police Chief Aaron Noble. His immediate reply: “let’s meet.”
Our 2-hour socially distanced talk in the park was attended by my friend Peg, Lt. Mike Thomas, and Shelburne’s Howard Mental Health Outreach worker, Rachel.
Hopefully the Shelburne News will prepare a longer article on this topic, but here are some of the major takeaways:
• The police work in tandem with 7 Community Outreach Team workers from Howard to cover Shelburne and nearby towns for mental health and social concerns. It is confidential their number is 488-7778. In most cases, officer involvement can be avoided entirely.
• Officer training that emphasizes de-escalation over the use of force.
• Staff has access to mental health support 24/7 by mental health clinicians who are former police officers and are specifically trained to treat first responders
• Intentional hiring and recruitment practices that attract diverse officers who uphold and foster a supportive and culturally- sensitive environment.
• The chief is actively working with minority consultants to make sure the department is promoting a culture that is welcoming and attractive to minority applicants
• They are community-focused: proactively meeting with residents in neighborhoods, attending town functions, and regularly doing supportive follow-ups in situations where appropriate.
• They have strict guidelines on the use of force including cameras that automatically turn on in the car and on their body, and automatic review of every incident involving force.
• Reducing and restructuring budgets to become more investment-minded and focused on long-term outcomes
• The department encourages “ride alongs’”so that citizens can experience police work firsthand Chief Noble recognizes and admits that there have been challenges in the past. “Knowing that you can do better is how you get to be better,” he says. “You have to start with a good person, you can train them to be a cop, but you can’t always train a cop to be a good person. We want to make sure that everyone on our force is someone that represents what we stand for and we will do everything we can to maintain a force that this town can be proud of.”
My conclusion -I am proud of our police department and I can’t wait to ‘ride along’.