Acting mayor announces new police relations board in Holyoke 

  • Holyoke Acting Mayor Terence Murphy STAFF PHOTO/BRIAN STEELE

Staff Writer
Published: 6/25/2021 7:44:42 PM

HOLYOKE – A new board that will advise the city’s acting mayor on the relationship between the community and the Police Department is seeking members.

In a City Hall press conference this week, Acting Mayor Terence Murphy said the Community Police Relations Board would work directly with his office and likely meet twice a month.

“The goal of creating the board is to provide a respectful dialogue, which is intended to note the concerns citizens have regarding police operations,” Murphy said. “It is important that those concerns are addressed in a thoughtful and respectful manner.”

He said the community needs to hear the police perspective, as well, in order to improve public safety for everyone.

The acting mayor is seeking seven board members drawn “from the diverse elements of the community” and three from the Police Department. He said anyone who is interested can contact his office.

Community board members will seek stories of negative interactions with police and share those experiences with the police department members. Anyone who shares information with the board will enjoy full confidentiality, Murphy said.

“I don’t want us being one side or the other. I want us talking,” said Murphy. “There are people who feel that we have significant reforms needed, and those are the concerns I would listen to, and then determine whether or not some of those can be implemented.”

In May, Murphy rescinded former Mayor Alex Morse’s executive order that declared racism and police violence to be public health emergencies in the city. At the time, he pushed back against criticism that he was brushing aside complaints from residents.

Morse’s order had established a citizen police advisory committee and declared Juneteenth 2020 a paid holiday for city workers, among other measures championed by advocates. Murphy said he worked with the City Council to preserve the Juneteenth holiday permanently, but the rest of the order had “no immediate benefit” because most of it had never been implemented.

Morse stepped down March 26 to become town manager in Provincetown. The City Council appointed Murphy, then the Ward 2 councilor, acting mayor in April.

The new community police board will have no legal authority of its own, and the city’s next mayor could eliminate the board upon taking office.

“My gut says, for the most part, the Police Department is doing a pretty good job, but that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize that we have biases, and how do we overcome those?” said Murphy on Thursday. “My hope is that whoever replaces me in four months will do the same kind of thing.”

He expects the meetings to be open to the public, but the first meeting will likely just “establish parameters” for future discussion.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.


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