“My concern is that this postponement will affect the entire project to fundamentally rethink policing in Somerville,” City Councilman Willie Burnley Jr. said in an interview last week.
Mr Burnley said he was “frustrated” by the pace of change in the city and said a new permanent director would take office. A police chief should be someone who is committed to moving Somerville forward.
“It would be helpful to have someone take the position, to say the least,” Burnley said. “Thousands of residents have called for change but have not seen it come to fruition.”
With Fallon gone, Cartertone appointed Charles Femino, who had been Acting Warden ten years earlier, to put down the fort.
Police say Femino is in his mid-60s and has been in the military for 30 years. Before retiring in September 2014, he resigned after ten months as Acting Chief. He then worked as Campus Safety Officer at Endicott College before Cartatone recalled him to replace Fallon.
Femino outlived Kurtatone, who did not run for re-election in 2021. Ballantine has been in office since January 2022.
Each of the past two years, some Somerville legislators have submitted proposals to allow Femino to serve for an additional year beyond the mandatory retirement age of 65. The first bill was signed by then-Governor Charlie Baker. In July 2022, Gov. Maura Healy signed this year’s version in May.
Denise Molina Capers, head of the Department of Racial and Social Justice and co-leader of the search for a new director under Ballantine’s administration, said she was “impulsive” and did not intend to set a deadline for the nomination. . The goal is to move the process forward “sooner or later,” he said, though he wouldn’t say if that means 2023.
Morena Capers said the pandemic began when Fallon told the mayor about his upcoming retirement, meaning Cartertone had “paused” his investigation to focus on the unfolding crisis. Stated.
And now, she said, the Ballantine administration is committed to “taking community input and doing it right.”
When asked if there were any downsides to the longer process, she said, “Absolutely not.”
“We have a good interim police chief,” she said, who is willing to work with the city on the reforms the Ballantine administration wants.
The application process is now closed and a selection committee is selecting three to five finalists to submit to the mayor, Morena Capers said. Finalists will be interviewed “in the open”.
The job search site Indeed continued to post the job this week, stating that it starts at $225,000 a year. The post said the city is looking for “collaborative, transformational leaders with proven managerial experience and strong interpersonal skills.” He added, “The incoming mayor will have a leadership record that demonstrates his belief in anti-racism. Chiefs must be determined to reshape and transform the image of the police force.”
Former City Councilman Will Mba lost to Ballantine in 2021 election During the mayoral race, he complained that little information about the search was made public.
“We pride ourselves on transparency and accountability, so the slowness of this process has been frustrating,” said Mba, who is running for city council again this year. “For a very progressive city like ours, it doesn’t look good.”
The selection of a police chief is considered one of the most important appointments a mayor makes, especially after the summer 2020 protests over Minneapolis’s crackdown on race and police following the murder of George Floyd. It is seen as an indication of the direction in which the company intends to proceed. police.
Across the Charles River, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Also elected in November 2021, he inherited a division that also has an acting police commissioner. The Boston division was under interim leadership for eleven months.
It took Wu eight months to settle on current Chief Michael Cox, a longtime Boston Police Department chief who until recently headed the police department in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was appointed as the city’s police chief in August 2022.
Morena Capers said the Ballantine administration is seeking a chief who actively promotes “anti-racism and anti-stigma work.”
“People definitely want fairness and want to prioritize candidates who understand the need for police reform,” she said.
Morena Capers said the city has two task force committees working on police reform, one focused on how civilian review boards should be, and another working on broader public safety recommendations. rice field.
She also said the city is conducting “extensive” surveys and evaluations of voters to gather feedback on Somerville’s policing. Should the city create an alternative response system in which the police do not respond to some calls? Other options that may be related to this include responding unarmed to some calls and having a psychiatrist accompany police to certain calls, she said. said.
“Will there be a lot of announcements, moves and updates next year? Absolutely,” she said.
Asked for comment, the police department reserved it in the mayor’s office.
Miles Herbert, a member of the Task Force on Civilian Oversight, said he was “a little confused as to why it took so long to identify the police chief.”
Ms. Ballantine is “trying to be measured twice and cut once, but at the end of the day, she’s not the one who pushed the police out,” said Herbert, who is part of the group that protects the Somerville Police Department fund. .
He said he did not believe the delay was the result of a deliberate slowdown, and that he had never tried to avoid the topic of police reform by saying that Somerville would have to wait for a new chief. Stated. But in general, Mr. Ballantine is a “slow reformer,” he said.
“We’re looking for what every city wants: a police chief trying to act inside and out,” said Andre Green, a community activist who serves on the school board.
Mr. Green said that interim police chiefs, by the nature of their position, have little political funding to advance what they want, so “the sooner we can get things under control and find the next leader, the better.” is good,” he said.
But he acknowledged that it’s been an “extraordinary three years” for the city and the world, saying Somerville police have a history of “above average” acceptance of new proposals.
He said the search for the director is progressing slowly, but it’s worth taking it slow.
“As a city, we need to use this time to really think about how we want to take the lead in discussions with the police,” he said.
Sean Cotter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. follow him @Cotter Reporter.