In Milton and beyond, the mood is tense. Tense about work itself and what it will look like in the future. Tense about how and when school children will return to classes. Tense about how we decide to plan for our future and live our daily lives. Tense about COVID-19 and when a vaccine will be manufactured.
While it is said that Milton’s public schools are a draw for people to want to live, and remain, in Milton, it is not the only reason. Another reason may be at the forefront, one that many may not want to readily admit. People who live in Milton live pretty close to Boston and can feel physically safe while moving about the town many different times during the day. That’s not to say there is not a reason for Milton’s police department to exist. Nor does that mean residents and visitors can or should blithely take safety or security risks. Nor does that mean that there is no crime in Milton.
While other communities in other states are talking about defunding their respective police departments after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd thus killing the Black man, this does not need to happen in Milton. To be sure, that is not now the focus of Town Meeting members’ or town officials’ attention.
It is wise to review the police department’s budget, as any reasonable and prudent community would do. Last year, Milton’s police department responded to 13,499 calls for service, Police Chief John King said in an email.
It is wise to discuss if there are any ways the department can perform its job even better.
Elaine Cushman Carroll reported in her first-night virtual Town Meeting story: “[King] said it is not an overly-weaponized department, has never tazed anyone, and choke holds are not allowed. It has adopted progressive policies and taken part in training around mental health, domestic violence, substance abuse, implicit bias, and de-escalation techniques, he added.”
The idiom “don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater” is worth remembering. Keep the best parts of the police department and its services that are working well, tweak the parts that need reform and discard what isn’t working.
First responders — police, fire, EMTs, ambulance crews — all are trained to act in an instant. As King said Monday night, “These things we are doing here are the things that reduce use of force. Those calls are still going to come into the Police Department at 2 a.m. and we can’t tell someone to wait an hour or two for some outside agency to respond. It’s our officers who respond. It’s our officers who deal with it so we invest heavily in training them.”
For Milton, this police training and response should remain the same.
– Lisa D. Connell