BACK THE BLUE: Selectmen Send Letter Of Support To Wilmington Police, Criticize MMA For Publishing Op-Ed On Police Reform Without Input From Town

WILMINGTON, MA — The Wilmington Board of Selectmen held a special one-issue meeting last week to discuss its frustration with the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) after its Executive Director and CEO sent a letter to state representatives and state senators lobbying in favor of police accountability legislation without first seeking the input of its member communities, including Wilmington. The Board also affirmed its support for the Wilmington Police Department.

Board Sends Stern Letter To Massachusetts Municipal Association

Selectmen Jonathan Eaton explained the board’s beef with the MMA.

“This past month, Geoffrey Beckwith, the Executive Director and CEO of the MMA, issued separate letters to the State House and State Senate in an open editorial supporting recent efforts around police reform,” explained Selectmen Chair Jonathan Eaton. “I did not receive any communication from the MMA seeking input on this issue. After speaking with Town Manager, I suspect no such communication seeking input came from the MMA to members of our board, members of the police department, and members of town leadership.”

“Because it’s an association of which we’re a member, it’s implied that we supported this as a policy statement. We may all feel differently about the bills passed by the House and Senate, but I believe if an association chooses to speak on our behalf, it first owes us the courtesy of checking with us for our opinion on that specific issue. I do not appreciate the MMA leveraging our membership to advocate for a policy that it did not care to discuss with us beforehand,” stressed Eaton.

“This is a point of great frustration for me. We have an Association that apparently doesn’t particularly care for our opinion before it decides to leverage our membership in its association and speak out of turn,” Eaton would later add.

Selectman Caira suggested Town Manager Jeff Hull send a letter to Geoffrey Beckwith to “remind him that it might be worthwhile to get the opinion of the various communities if he’s going to step out on the ledge.”

“It’s important that [Beckwith] gets the pulse of each community,” said Caira. “Before [Beckwith] paints a broad brush and decides to include everyone, he needs to notify the communities and get their opinions.”

“For Mr. Beckwith to take liberties, I think it should be a very stern letter,” agreed Selectman Gary DePalma. “Don’t use us unless you talk to us.”

Selectmen unanimously agreed to have Town Manager Jeff Hull send a letter to Beckwith, which can be read below:


Letter #1

Board Sends Letter Of Support To The Wilmington Police Department

Selectmen Chair Jonathan Eaton and his colleagues made it clear that the Board of Selectmen supports the Wilmington Police Department.

“I feel very strongly that Chief Desmond and Deputy Chief Pupa are the right individuals to lead that department and do so very effectively,” said Eaton. “Our Police Department has prioritized community engagement. It’s hosted community-based programs including National Night Out, the Citizen’s Police Academy, the Citizen’s CPR Class, the Wilmington Police Explorer Program, Mental Health First Aid For Seniors, and the RAD Women’s Self Defense Program. Our Police Department was recently awarded a 10-year sustaining grant to continue and expand upon the community outreach programs. These programs, and the plans to expand them, existed prior to the recent call for reform and I’m confident will continue regardless of decisions that may be made on Beacon Hill because their consistent with the core values of the Wilmington Police Department.”

“[Our Police] undergo regular training on deescalation techniques, mental health, fair and impartial policing, and diversity, and they dedicate themselves towards constant self-improvement both as officers and as a department as a whole,” continued Eaton. “Our Police Department denounced the actions of the four Minneapolis police officers involved in the death of George Floyd and have demonstrated their commitment to listening to community members wishing to engage in meaningful discussion on the issues regarding responsible policing… I feel the Wilmington Police Department does an excellent job in serving and protecting our community.”

“We have one of the finest police departments in all of Massachusetts,” said Selectman Greg Bendel. “They show up everyday and act extremely professional and compassionate. I’m very grateful to live in a community that has such a great Police Department. I’m very proud to support the Police Department. The men and women do an excellent job. Over my past four years on this Board, I’ve heard countless stories of Wilmington Police and Fire going above and beyond to assist residents. I can’t say it enough how much I support our Police Department. Always have. Always will. Many of them I grew up with. Most are Wilmington residents. A lot of them are veterans. Some are even active military. I want to thank them for their service to our community and their service to our community.”

“Making one policy to apply across the board isn’t working in our current state of affairs on many levels from many aspects. We start with our community. We’re the Board of Selectmen in WILMINGTON. We really need to look at what’s going on in WILMINGTON vs. trying to implement something in Wilmington that may not necessarily need to be implemented,” added Selectwoman Jomarie O’Mahony.

“Where is [Wilmington] lacking right now? When has the Wilmington Police been questioned for use of force? All I found in my research was an example of when they showed amazing restraint….,” continued O’Mahony. “We can’t change how the country works as the Board of Selectmen in the Town of Wilmington. We can only look at what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. If there’s something I’m not aware of… bring it to our attention. As I sit here tonight, I still can’t give an example of when our police force hasn’t done exactly what they should have been doing.”

Town Manager Hull and Selectman Eaton pointed out some of the appropriations to the Police Department that the Board of Selectmen recently supported, including two new police officers, new tasers, and new police cruisers, as well as an upcoming significant upgrade to the dispatch center.

“These are actionable items that have been taken by this board that demonstrate the support we have for the police department,” said Hull.

Selectmen unanimously agreed to have Town Manager Jeff Hull send a letter to the heads of the police unions, to be distributed to their officers, which can be read below:


Letter #2

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