Bedford’s Progressive Police Training Program Involves Community Members

View of the Room
At Middlesex Community College – Image (c) Bedford Police, 2016 all rights reserved

Submittted by John Guilfoil on behalf of the Bedford Police Department

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Bedford’s Police Chief Robert Bongiorno – Image (c) Bedford Police Department, 2016 all rights reserved

Chief Robert Bongiorno is pleased to announce that the Bedford Police Department last week hosted an engaging and successful training session on the concepts of “Legitimacy, Procedural Justice, and Value-based Policing.” For the first time in the history of the course, the program involved both police officers and civilians in the same room, learning about a proposed new way for police officers to engage the community.

The training curriculum was developed by the Cambridge Police Department in cooperation with the Massachusetts Police Training Committee. Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas, Deputy Superintendent Christine Elow and Officer Anthony Bongiorno taught the class at Middlesex Community College’s Bedford campus on Thursday, January 7.

Click each image to see it at its full width – All images (c) Bedford Police Department, 2016 all rights reserved

About 2/3 of the Bedford Police Department attended, as well as nearly a dozen members of the Arlington Police Department. Also in attendance were nearly 60 elected officials, town department heads, non-profit leaders, clergy and other residents who were invited to take part in the program.

“When we talk about things like legitimacy and values in policing, we are discussing innovative and forward-thinking ways to look at how we do our jobs in the 21st century,” Chief Bongiorno said. “By bringing the community into the room, I saw this training program as an opportunity to engage in candid dialog and build better relationships with each other.”

Core to the training is the belief that police officers should conduct themselves in a manner that is fair, impartial, transparent and consistent. The instructors stressed the importance of “legitimacy” and building public trust, and they showed case studies that looked at what happens when police officers technically followed the letter of the law and lost the trust of their community. The instructors also stressed that police officers must realize their actions, however small, will stay with a person forever and that every individual carries with them different life experiences.

“Legitimacy” in policing is the belief that police officers are trustworthy, honest, and concerned about the well-being of all the people they encounter, and it is measured by the public’s trust in the police and their belief that officers actions are moral and justified. In the modern age, progressive police departments believe that they need to take a solid look at the status quo and ask themselves how their communities view them and their actions.

Cambridge Police created and began teaching this curriculum to police departments across the commonwealth in response to the national backlash following the arrest of Harvard professor Lewis Henry Gates in 2009.

Course instructors cited specific examples of how the Cambridge Police Department has changed the way it does business, including reevaluating how they deescalate or disengage after an interaction with the public and seeking to manage a situation rather than commanding and controlling it. The focus is also on the quality of relationships in the community and increasing community engagement opportunities.

During opening discussions, many of the police officers said they wanted to learn about the community’s view of police and civilians in the audience stated they desired to find out the perspectives of the police officers. Several audience members shared wishes of learning how to have better conversations with children and expressed the need to engage youth by teaching them to trust the police and have an active dialogue.

In addition to the training curriculum, remarks were also given by:

  • Alisa Chapman, Director of Compliance and Title IX Coordinator at MCC
  • Massachusetts State Representative Kenneth Gordon
  • Bedford Selectman Margot Fleishman
  •  Rev. Christopher Wendell of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
  • Rev. John Gibbons of First Parish in Bedford
  • Dr. James Mabry, President of MCC

For more information or questions, contact the Bedford Police Department at 781-275-1212.

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