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Informally, yes. Pastor Brent (pre-COVID-19) would often be here visiting with the Department. Our relationship with the Lexington Interfaith Community Association (LICA) is also important because we may need to call upon other faith leaders in some difficult situations.
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Sometimes it can be difficult to filter out local issues from regional and national issues. The polarization of our nation seems to be forcing people to 'take sides', while respectful disagreement and thoughtful dialogue is getting lost. We believe that over a very long period of time, the LPD has generated credibility and trust within the community. The community continues to provide support for professional policing and appropriate levels of training to ensure we are able to continue to provide high quality services.
In September/October 2020, we recorded about 35 short videos about police services in Lexington that soon will be posted on our website. We hope the videos, as well as this FAQ, will help the community better understand how we approach policing in Lexington.
The mask regulations in the Commonwealth are limited. By law, a person need only say, "I have a health condition" and there is nothing more that officers can do. Or, a person can say "no, I won't do it." The Town can issue a citation, but we cannot ask someone to leave a public sidewalk; we cannot take them into custody; we cannot require them wear a mask.
We are most successful when we establish a rapport with everyone present at a scene. Whether we agree or disagree with the politics, courtesy and respect is an important tool for police officers.
Complete Question: What's happened to the job title "Peace Officer", as opposed to "Police Officer", or "Law Enforcement Officer"? Should Lexington residents and Town officials reframe the role of those who work for the Police Department as "Peace Officers", and intentionally train people for their role accordingly?
Law enforcement is a small part of our actual duties, so we don't typically refer to ourselves as "law enforcement officers"; this is used more often by the Federal Government. The statutes in Massachusetts typically refer to police and "police officers."
We are local. Our only jurisdiction is Lexington. We belong to a community that cares about public service and is willing to support Town services by funding our annual budgets and replacing our infrastructure. The community also sets high expectations for our schools, DPW, library, police and others. We have intelligent, educated and compassionate officers who are committed to their professional responsibilities and care about the people they are sworn to protect.
Given our passion for our profession, it is difficult to hear about negative experiences. The stories may originate in Lexington, in other communities and, in some instances, other countries. To the best of our ability, we need to listen and learn. As new officers join the Department, we need to thoroughly train them to do their job correctly, meeting the expectations of the community. To do our job well, we must work with and for the community.
We are learning to use our social media more effectively to share positive stories. Some of our more important success stories, however, involve mental health and medical issues and the law prohibits disclosing this information publicly.
The Massachusetts State Police Union has almost zero impact on policing in the Town of Lexington. We generally defer to the Massachusetts State Police (MSP) crash events on Route 2 and Route 95. The District Attorney also has jurisdiction over all deaths in Lexington and uses the MSP to investigate these crimes in cooperation with us. Otherwise, policing in Lexington is controlled locally.
As with all Committees, the Select Board reviews the activities of all Boards and Committees they appoint to ensure they are meeting the their, and the community's, expectations.
The Police Department has had tremendous success with our free Police Youth Academy, the Law Enforcement Club at Lexington High School, and our Explorer Program. The past two years, with the Superintendent’s approval, officers stop by two elementary/middle schools per day for approximately 15-20 minutes. Officers walk the campus, interact with kids during recess and gym, or otherwise make themselves available to any school initiative. When kids approach and speak with officers in these informal settings important bonds can form.
Enforcement by health officials and the police is still a challenge. A person need only declare that they have a medical condition and we have no further recourse. There is no requirement that the person prove their health status. Secondly, there is no authority to compel a person to identify themselves. The updated regulations did not change this situation.
The regulations that require wearing face masks outdoors is an attempt to achieve voluntary compliance with the regulations by as many people as possible.