Presentation gives in-depth look at North Police training and roles

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Todd McGhee leads a forum on police training and responses on Monday, July 27. The group discussed qualified immunity and use of force for different incidents. Staff Photo/Max Bowen

By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

From types of calls to the training, town officials learned much about the different roles that the North Attleborough Police Department take on.

Held on Monday, July 27, the forum was led by Todd McGhee, a trainer for active shooter and international anti-terrorism incidents and Homeland Security expert. The purpose of the presentation was to educate the public on the work that police do. McGhee said that on the subject of police reform, it would be good to take a hard look on what can be improved. McGhee defends police officers in use of force cases, but said that the actions in Minneapolis on May 25 that led to George Floyd’s could not be justified.

We have an opportunity to be here,” he said. “To embrace and move the conversation forward.”

McGhee spoke on the origins of modern policing, which began with Sir Robert Peel and the nine principles of police departments. One of these is to recognize that the power of police to fulfill duties is dependent on public approval. McGhee said that in these times, there is a lack of respect for those in uniform and that policing has to evolve with the times.

When a police officer violates the oath of office it begins to erode,” said McGhee. “It’s why we’re seeing a reaction from the actions of a few bad officers. Do we want to protect these officers—I would hope not.”

Questions and feedback

Many in the audience had questions on police procedure or response to incidents. One item that has been debated is if qualified immunity for officers should be eliminated. This protects officials from lawsuits, with the exception of clear violations of the law. Town Councilor John Simmons said to eliminate qualified immunity would be a great overreach and lead to a “slew of lawsuits.”

I imagine mass retirement from officers that don’t want to put their lives more at risk,” said Simmons. “People will sue you for anything.”

Steven Carvalho, head of the Park and Recreation Department, said that parents need to better educate their children, adding that his office has always had a good relationship with the police. Town Manager Michael Borg said that any profession must have a self—discipline structure. Town Councilor Darius Gregory felt that any reform needs to come from both sides.

NAPD is doing a good job, but there’s still probably room for improvement” said Gregory.

Incidents and training

The forum included information on the calls that officers respond to. In 2019, the department responded to over 32,000 calls—these include 58 assaults, 331 domestic incidents, 35 restraining order violations, three robberies, and 16 sex crimes. During that year 21 firearms have been turned in, which McGhee could have led to active shooter situations in other circumstances. There were also 16 attempted suicides and 14 times that Narcan was used, which McGhee said was 14 deaths avoided. There were also 504 suspicious person reports.

This shows the community reaches out to the police department—that’s a big deal, it shows trust,” he said. “Hopefully that number will continue to increase.”

McGhee also outlined the training the department undergoes. This includes legal updates, domestic terrorism, firearm re-certification, hate crimes, domestic violence arrest, domestic violence risk assessment, and implicit bias. Police Chief John Reilly said he doesn’t take transfers from other departments, preferring to work with new recruits from the academy. He said there can be a great unknown when it comes to transfers—a chief may say an officer is a good person, but in reality is looking to get rid of them.

We had times when we had to discipline people and that resulted in them resigning or being terminated and we did it because it was the right thing to do,” said Reilly.

Departments use a Use of Force Continuum to determine how to respond to incidents. The first level is Presence, when the officer arrives on the scene. If this fails, they move to the next level. McGhee said that decision is made in a nanosecond and based on training and experience. Other levels of force include handcuffs, batons, and firearms. Reilly said that Use of Force evaluations are conducted with each incident, then reviewed by the captain and again at the end of the year.

I don’t have the fortitude to sweep anything under the rug,” said Reilly. “I think the department knows that if someone makes a mistake it can be a mistake of the head or the heart. I see that violations are seriously dealt with.”