WILMINGTON, MA — On Monday, Wilmington Police Chief Michael Begonis participated in a wide-ranging interview with WCTV Executive Director Shaun Neville in the station’s latest episode of “Town Topics.” Below are some highlights:
Wilmington Supports Its Police Department
Begonis thanked the residents of Wilmington for their continued support.
“Whenever there is a tragedy, the community comes out and really steps up for us,” says Begonis. “After the Dallas police shootings, we got a lot of well wishes, a lot of cards, a lot of young children writing letters to us, a lot of cookies brought to the station. It really shows that the folks in Wilmington get it… They know the officers have a tough job to do.”
“[Residents] understand that we’re drastically impacted by such a tragedy,” continues Begonis. “These [kind gestures] do make the officers feel better.”
WPD & Race Relations
When asked about race relations between police departments and communities, Begonis says he looks at the issue from two different perspectives — the national level and the local level.
“Nationally, we have a big question to ask and a lot of answers that need to be given relative to race relations and police services provided to communities,” acknowledges Begonis.
Begonis is quick to point out, however, that his department’s experiences with race relations are a lot different than that of colleagues from other parts of the country. He attributes this, in part, to Wilmington’s demographics and composition. Begonis also notes that Wilmington is relatively small in size, allowing his officers to have a closer relationship with its residents, even getting to know many by name.
Wilmington’s Substance Abuse Efforts
“We look at substance abuse as a very important and serious topic,” says Begonis. “We proactively pursue information relative to people who use drugs. Whereas some communities will wait for these individuals to a commit a crime, Wilmington – for the past 5 years – seeks them out BEFORE they commit a crime.”
“Most people, especially the addict’s families, realize they’re not on an island — they have a level of support from the police department,” stresses Begonis. “We do care and if there’s something we can do to help, we’ll bring that service to them.”
Begonis points to mental illness as the culprit behind many of the domestic, disturbance and suspicious calls his department receives.
“The majority of our most serious calls often have to do with mental health…. These calls put officers in really high-risk situations on a daily basis, many of which can be quite time consuming,” says Begonis.
Begonis links mental illness and drug addiction, noting that in many instances, an addict will have a duel diagnosis, where the drug use is caused by an underlying mental health issue.
Two Upcoming Popular Community Events
Begonis briefly touched on two upcoming community events sponsored by the Wilmington Police Department.
On Tuesday, August 2 at 6pm at Rotary Park, the police are hosting their annual National Night Out event, which is designed to enhance community involvement in the policing process. The free event will feature a K9 demonstration, touch a truck, a helicopter landing (possibly a National Guard Blackhawk), an outdoor film screening, and free food. More details can be found HERE.
“The officers really get the most out of National Night Out,” notes Begonis. “It’s nice to interact with folks on a positive level… The kids love it. The parents love it.”
On Thursday, August 4, from 11am to 2pm, the police association, along with the Wilmington Recreation Department, are hosting their annual Police Beach Day at Town Beach. The free event will feature fun competitions, sand castle contests, a DJ, and a BBQ lunch served by the officers.
“Both events are designed for the Police Department to build relationships and parnterhsips with businesses and residents,” explains Begonis, “so when we show up [in an emergency], it’s not the first time you’ve ever seen us.”
Fun On The Fourth Success
Chief Begonis praises his department for a “phenomenal job” during the town’s recent Fun on the Fourth celebrations. No serious safety issues arose during the 4-day event.
“In partnership with the event’s neighbors, the town and the Fourth of July Committee, we had a lot of success. It was nice to see such a large group of people having such a positive experience,” says Begonis.
“I got many comments from residents about the engagement of my officers, e.g., getting on one knee, talking to the little children, handing out balloons and bracelets,” he adds.
“There were even some vacations cancelled [within the police department] because of the celebration,” mentions Begonis, noting that his officers show such a dedication to the job and often have to sacrifice time away from their families.
“I got the best police department going,” says Begonis. “Every member has their own little niche — the one thing they do and do very well. Once you fit all those round pegs in the round holes, we wind up having a great product at the end of the day.”
Watch The Full Interview
Watch the entire interview, courtesy of Wilmington Community Television, below. Other topics discussed include: training for a mass casualty situation; a breakdown of the department’s staffing and structure; and advice on what a resident should do if they get pulled over for a ticket.
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