LETTER: Wilmington Police Address Criticism From 2016 Incident, Reaffirm Its Commitment To Help Those In Crisis

Below is a letter from Wilmington Police Chief Joseph Desmond, in response to a request for comment on a letter that recently ran in the Wilmington Apple:

June 10, 2020

On August 1, 2016, the Wilmington Police Department received the report of a missing 18 year old female who had exited her rideshare vehicle in the area of 14 Glen Road in Wilmington. That 18 year old was Ira Jaan Simbulan a bright young student from Babson College. Tragically, Ms. Simbulan was located, deceased, on the morning of August 3, 2016 at approximately 1000 am behind the residence at 43 Glen Road behind a shed abutting the woods. This was a devastating result for everyone involved and most especially Ira’s loved ones and her friends.

Here is a brief outline regarding the disappearance of Ira Jaan Simbulan and the Wilmington Police Department’s investigation.

On August 1, 2016 around 730 pm, the boyfriend of Ira Jaan Simbulan accompanied by his father and brother reported that his girlfriend Ira had made threats to harm herself and that she was last seen in the area of 14 Glen Road Wilmington, when she apparently got out of her rideshare. Officers conducted a search of the area and that search was extended to other areas of town based on information shared about a prior incident involving Ms. Simbulan. The rideshare driver was also interviewed on that evening by
Wilmington Police Officers.

On the morning of August 2, 2016, Wilmington Police Detectives canvassed the area of Glen Road, where Ms. Simbulaan was last seen. A reverse 911 was sent to the community looking for any information into the disappearance, as well as a search by a K-9 team from a neighboring community. Wilmington Police Officers assisted the K-9 unit in a search of the area without locating Ms. Simbulaan.

Throughout the day of August 2, 2016 Wilmington Police Detectives re-interviewed the rideshare driver at the Wilmington Police Department and went to the store in Methuen, MA where she went before getting out of the rideshare on Glen Road. The detective was able to get a photo of her from a surveillance camera and the receipt of her purchase from the store in Methuen. Ms. Simbulaan’s phone was also pinged in an attempt to find her location.

On August 2, 2016 around 4:00pm a team of NEMLEC K-9 units were deployed in the area of Glen Road and Middlesex Avenue, with focus on the area where she was last seen. In total there were approximately 25 K-9 handlers and their partners and they were supported by the Massachusetts State Police Air Wing Helicopter. During the search there were two reverse 911 calls sent the community looking for assistance in the disappearance of Ms. Simbulan. The search lasted approximately three hours without finding Ms. Simbulaan and the decision was made to deploy the entire NEMLEC RRT on the morning of August 3, 2016.

On August 2, 2016, the Wilmington Police Department hosted the National Night Out event from 6 to 8pm at Rotary Field. There were no Officers or resources committed to the search for Ms. Simbulaan that were diverted away from that search to participate in the National Night Out event.

On August 3, 2016 a search was conducted by the NEMLEC Regional Response Team with assistance of cadets from the Lowell Police Academy. During that search one of the officers located Ms. Simbulaan, deceased, behind a shed on the property of 43 Glen Road.

The mission of the Wilmington Police Department is to serve as “a Professional Police Organization that is committed to serving the needs of the entire community through a display of compassion and a show of respect to the community served, as well as a respect for the laws of the Commonwealth and the Constitution of the United States. Through this Commitment, Compassion and Respect, the members of the Wilmington Police Department strive to attain a high standard of Excellence in serving the
Community.”

Though we never knew Ira Jaan, we committed to try and find her, in order to get the help she needed. The department continually displays our mandate to help those that are experiencing a crisis and need our assistance. Over the last few years, the department has worked hard to improve our response to mental health crises, so that we can help to get people the best help possible. As part of that commitment we have trained a majority of our officers in Crisis Intervention Team Training. This forty hour training focuses on responding to calls for individuals in Mental Health Crisis with a focus in de-escalation and treatment. The Town of Wilmington has also hired a full-time social worker, who is assigned to the Police Department and works vigorously to help those in the community who need assistance. She works proactively emphasizing a preventative manner in order to provide intervention early on, when possible.

As we mourn the passing of Ira Jann Simbulan in August of 2016, we continue to work hard within the community to assist and protect those who may be the most vulnerable. If you or a loved one is looking for assistance with a mental crisis, I encourage you to reach out to the department Social Worker, Samantha Reif, at 978-658-5071.

Sincerely,

Joseph Desmond
Chief of Police

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