Belchertown police land $463K grant for sexual assault, domestic violence work

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Staff Writer
Published: 10/5/2020 2:48:52 PM

BELCHERTOWN — Town police have received a $462,817 federal grant that they say will improve their response to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.

The Belchertown Police Department said the funding is an extension of an original award of $242,537 received in 2017 from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. The funding covers a three-year period.

The money will be used to pay the salary and benefits of a full-time Belchertown police officer who will be dedicated to the prevention and investigation of stalking and domestic, sexual and dating violence, according to an announcement by the department. Funds will also allow the Belchertown and Northampton police departments to share an advocate who will provide direct services to victims and be provided through the University of Massachusetts Center for Women & Community.

Police say that the money will be used to provide specialized training for officers “in the areas of sexual and domestic violence, human trafficking, stalking and violence against vulnerable populations including elders, disabled and the immigrant community.”

“This funding will allow the Belchertown Police Department to continue the availability of victim advocates working with victims both inside and outside our station,” said Police Chief Christopher Pronovost in the statement. “This grant will also fund an urgent need to dedicate an officer to these extremely important issues and to fund specialized training for all of the department’s police officers and dispatchers.”

The money that was awarded in 2017 also funded a victim advocate who worked with the Belchertown and Northampton police departments. It was reported at the time that information given to the civilian advocate would be confidential and also that the advocate would be conducting training for police on best practices to use when helping and interviewing victims. 

In recent months, protests against racial violence and police brutality have erupted across the area and the United States. After protesters called for a one-third reduction to the Northampton Police Department’s budget in June, the city council cut the department’s budget by 10%.

A newly-created Policing Review Commission in Northampton will study transitioning 911 calls for mental health, houselessness, substance abuse disorder, and “other non-criminal services and domestic violence calls to civilian responders or social service agencies,” according to the city’s website.

Michael Connors can be reached by mconnors@gazettenet.com. 


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