Easthampton police reform group submits report

  • JERREY ROBERTSEasthampton Municipal Building, 50 Payson Avenue GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/11/2021 8:32:04 PM

EASTHAMPTON — The Mayor’s Pledge Work Group, created last summer to provide recommendations to re-envision police safety, has released a final report focused on increasing non-police alternatives for health and public safety issues, transparency and community collaboration.

The group, which was tasked with reviewing the city police department’s use-of-force policies, issued six recommendations for the city to implement:

■Investing in non-police, community-led responses for safety and health concerns.

■“Robust” data collection and analysis with regular reporting.

■Strengthened oversight.

■Intentional, regular communication and collaboration with the community in order to understand and develop responses.

■Examining police culture and training.

■Educating and informing the public on the revised use-of-force policy.

A January assessment of the Easthampton Police Department’s use-of-force policy includes recommendations such as prohibiting the use of force as retaliation and transparency in recording and reporting use-of-force data.

The 105-page work group report, submitted to City Council for public comment at a meeting on Wednesday night, details steps to achieve these recommendations, and presents comments gathered from members of the public, community organizations and Easthampton police officers. The group was established after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last June and is part of the Obama-era effort My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Mayor Pledge, which Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle signed in June.

The council referred the report to the Public Safety Committee for public feedback on Wednesday.

At the time the report was released, the group consisted of facilitator Nicole Hendricks, a professor and chair of the criminal justice program at Holyoke Community College; City Councilor Homar Gomez; Easthampton High School senior Alice Wanamaker; and Community Relations Committee members Rebecca Passa and Margaret Kierstein.

The work group previously included Pasqualina Azzarello and Gaby Stevenson, members of racial justice group 01027: A Knee Is Not Enough (AKINE), and Jason Montgomery, who was a founding member of AKINE but is no longer affiliated with this activist group.

According to Hendricks, the report emphasizes the importance of including the community in decision-making.

“True community police engagement has to mean that the community is involved in decision-making about what their priorities are when it comes to creating safe and healthy communities,” Hendricks said.

The report also highlights that “information is critical,” Hendricks said, as is “increasing accountability and transparency. So just as communities need to be part of decision making, there has to be enough data and information about the actual work of policing for folks to be informed, and that information needs to be easy to access.”

Not all involved with the work group felt the initiative was successful in addressing police reform. Montgomery described his experience with the group as “seethingly problematic,” stating the police did not provide data that the group had requested. Montgomery eventually left the group and said that while LaChapelle and other city officials have publicly committed to police reform, he did not see effort to reform policing.

Increasing access to data on police practices will be “an important step forward” in addressing reform, according to Hendricks.

The city received limited public comment to put toward the report, according to LaChapelle.

“It was very clear that there wasn’t enough community trust for people to actually share those thoughts about it,” LaChapelle said. “We couldn’t figure out a way to do that safely for everyone, and that … really gave us substantive data and feedback that we really have a community trust problem.”

The work group’s phase has mostly concluded at this point, according to Hendricks, and the city is now responsible for offering opportunities for public comment.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@

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