POST SYMPOSIUM SPARKS NEEDED DISCUSSION OVER POLICE TRAINING AND CONDUCT:
Easton MA: Close to 50 current and former law enforcement officials gathered at the Martin Institute at Stonehill College in Easton MA last Wednesday, to discuss whether Massachusetts should adopt a Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) system. The event was sponsored by the Massachusetts Association for Professional Law Enforcement (MAPLE).
The event was moderated by MAPLE Board of Director member, Arthur Bourque (MSP-retired). Dan Zivkovich, the Executive Director of the Municipal Police Training Council (MPTC) was the featured speaker. Dennis Galvin, MAPLE president gave a short presentation on the goals and objectives of the organization.
Director Zivkovich opened his address by emphasizing that POST is a concept, “not a thing.” He described it as a method for unifying and upgrading the police service with the aim of making it more effective and professional. Dan provided an overview of POST and how it has been implemented throughout the rest of the United States, pointing out that Massachusetts is one of only six states that has not adopted any aspect of this system.
It was emphasized repeatedly that POST was not an effort to remove the autonomy of individual police departments. Rather, it was a means of ensuring that officers in all departments receive the same general level of training and adhere to some basic “best practices” that are intended to protect them when they undergo challenge, often the result of civil litigation.
Training is a significant component of a POST system. Minimum training requirements for critical areas would be established by a POST authority in a state. Curriculum would be provided that could withstand legal challenge. Additionally, municipalities would be relieved of the cost of funding such training on their own.
Selecting candidates for employment would be another area that POST might address. Currently, there are very minimal standards for eligibility to work as a police officer in Massachusetts. Candidates need only have a high school diploma or GED and have a record free of felony convictions. It they meet these qualifications. they are eligible for hire. A POST system could establish minimum qualifications for hiring that might include detailed background checks, educational requirements and other criteria which now vary widely from one department to another.
The most controversial aspect of POST is the authority to certify and de-certify police officers. A POST authority in a state could act as an
umbrella organization that would constantly monitor police personnel actions for serious cases of misconduct. In such cases, a POST authority could initiate independent action against an officer’s “license to practice” if the circumstances surrounding the misconduct were significant.
Dan reiterated that POST is not a “one size fits all” proposition. It is an instrument for improving the quality and effectiveness of the police service in any given state. Its implementation must reflect the needs and character of the state that it is in. Questions as to how it would be implemented in Massachusetts are very much open to discussion.
A resolution has been filed in the Massachusetts State Legislature by State Representative Dan Vierra (R-Cape and Islands) to establish a commission to study POST implementation in Massachusetts. There is partisan support for the bill as State Representative Russell Holmes (D-Boston) is the co-sponsor.
A short presentation was made by President Dennis Galvin that described the purpose of MAPLE. Galvin said that police officers across the nation are facing “unprecedented challenges” today. They are facing a variety of threats to include: terrorism, drug cartels and warring street gangs. One of the organizations goals is to reconnect the police service to the higher education community, to re-establish the partnership that had existed forty years ago. The reason for this is to ensure that today’s police officers have the training and education they need to successfully execute their mission.
In addition to the Law Enforcement officials present at the symposium, Stonehill College criminology students participated in helping to administer the symposium. They were also active participants, offering several poignant questions that prompted some lively discussion during a question and answer session, that followed Dan Zivkovich’s address.
“The law will not be respected until those who enforce it are.”