Great Barrington — Great Barrington Police Department (GBPD) Chief William Walsh told the Selectboard on Monday, Nov. 28, that his is the first police department in Berkshire County to become accredited by the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission.
Walsh had told The Edge in an earlier article that following the accreditation manual — which, by the way, is very thick — and using “best practices” reduces all kinds of liability and gives the town “a little break” on insurance. While “it’s mainly paperwork-driven,” he said, “it helps in case of a lawsuit or complaint,” particularly for the department’s handling of prisoners. Since the department has the only cellblock in the immediate area to take prisoners from nearby towns, this is crucial.
“It’s an honor for the town,” Walsh told the board.
He credited the department’s executive administrative assistant Cara Becker, who, he said “hit the ground running” to make a demanding and tedious process happen.
“She was the cement that kind of pulled this together,” he added. “She kept our nose to the grindstone with guidelines. She kept our focus together.”
Walsh had previously explained that the Commission sent out assessment teams to see if the department was doing things right. Larger departments in cities have their own separate accreditation staff to streamline things, and it takes more work and money in the smaller departments.
“It has to be in practice,” Walsh had said, “not just on the shelf.”
And it covers everything from how to fill out reports to school shootings. Because cellblock standards are “a high-liability thing,” this is an area of intense evaluation for accreditation.
Walsh told the Board the “heavily paper-driven” process is “meaningless” without adherence by the officers and civilian staff.
The department has 17 full time officers, and additional part time officers.
Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin said the department has “taken a lead in community police initiatives,” and that Walsh recently participated in 21st century policing task force function at the White House.