Mashpee Police Chief Scott W. Carline engaged in a virtual conversation Tuesday, October 13, with the town’s Inclusion and Diversity Committee.
The conversation between committee members and the chief recalled a tense moment in the department’s history and veered lightly into subjects raised by the national protests that erupted after the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by Minneapolis police earlier this year.
“Let’s talk about Mashpee; what are the issues in Mashpee?” J. Marie Stevenson, the chairwoman of the committee, said. “We can talk about Minneapolis, but we need to talk about Mashpee and where we are and what is being done.”
Chief Carline noted that it was his second time engaging with the inclusion and diversity committee.
“The last time we met on November 13, 2018, I discussed our community policing philosophies and the fact that they have been an absolute priority in assisting us in the building and maintaining of public trust within our community,” the chief said.
He noted the presence of a school resource officer, Officer Katie Hennessey, who interacts with students at school and acts as a mentor, and the department’s civil rights officer, Officer Michael Moulis.
As of August 1, 2019, the department’s policy regarding “biased-based profiling” has been updated, the police chief said.
“This policy recognizes that the Mashpee Police Department is committed to protecting the constitutional and civil rights of all citizens,” Chief Carline said.
“Allegations of biased-based profiling, discriminatory practices, real or perceived, are detrimental to the relationship between the police and the communities we protect and serve because they strike at the basic foundations of trust,” the chief said, quoting the policy. “Mashpee Police Department does not endorse, train, teach, support or condone in any way stereotyping or biased-based profiling by their officers.”
Such “biased-based profiling” is strictly prohibited by the department, he said.
The department is also in the process of attempting to receive accreditation through the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission, Chief Carline said.
In November, the commission will perform an in-person evaluation of the department, a final step in the accreditation process, he said.
The accreditation process is a “voluntary assessment process by which agencies can be publicly recognized for meeting those standards considered best practices for the profession,” the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission’s website says.
The accreditation is a long-term goal that has been pursued over the past two years, Chief Carline said.
The police chief also highlighted a body-worn camera program that the department began piloting with 10 officers in September.
“This body-worn camera pilot program will assist us in providing transparency and open communication,” Chief Carline said. “This pilot program will also evaluate the business process of recording, storing and public disclosures of body-worn video.”
The Mashpee police department is the first department on Cape Cod to pilot such a program and among the first in the state.
“We make strong efforts to stay in the forefront of our profession,” Chief Carline said. “The last time I checked, which was probably about a month ago, I think there were only eight other agencies in the commonwealth [to implement a body-camera program], so we’re way in front of the curve here.”
Committee member JoAnne Nadeau, a former preschool teacher, asked the chief, “How do you and your officers make connections with families for the most part in those positive ways first?”
Chief Carline said the department’s training program introduces new officers to the department’s philosophies from the start.
“What I ask of my officers is, if there is a chance to take an extra step to assist a citizen, I ask them to please do it,” he said.
The department’s officers have been known to help change tires, relay medications to those who need them and help shovel elderly residents’ driveways so that they can get their mail, the police chief said.
The department also engages with younger residents through various programs such as Cones and Cops, in which children are invited to eat ice cream with police officers, he said.
“We’re just like you; we have families, and we want positive change,” Chief Carline said.
Winnie Johnson-Graham, the vice chairwoman and tribal representative of the committee, raised the specter of a 1988 incident where a Mashpee police officer shot a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, David Hendricks, multiple times following a six-mile car chase. Mr. Hendricks died of his wounds.
“I think you’re so respectful, and I think that we’ve come a long way,” Ms. Johnson-Graham said. “When my Uncle David was shot and killed by a police officer in the ‘80s, the chief of police was a tribal member and actually—I know you have to stick with the brotherhood or whatever—but I felt he totally turned his back on us and didn’t try to work with the community.”
The 1988 incident, which resulted in settlements for both the family of Mr. Hendricks and a settlement between the town and the officer, David Mace, led to years of distrust between the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and the town.
“Where my grandmother got $200,000 from my uncle’s death and the officer got a $100,000 dollars, that just didn’t seem fair,” Ms. Johnson-Graham said. “We’ve come a long way, and I think that is so good that you’re going to have the body cams.”
She did not ask a direct question of Chief Carline but said, “There are a lot of good officers, but I think that when the bad officers do something, I think they should be accountable. I don’t think they should get money and be on leave of absence; they should actually be fired.”
Ms. Stevenson followed up on Ms. Johnson-Graham’s comments.
“We can’t really ignore—and I think Winnie has really identified that—that this is something that you as a chief of the police department has to deal with because no matter what you do there is still resentment from the past,” Ms. Stevenson said. “It’s something we just can’t ignore that there is a history that is very specific to Mashpee.”
Ms. Stevenson then asked Chief Carline whether he has seen an increase in mental health and drug-related issues.
“Really the police are being asked to do a lot that would be related to drug addiction and mental illness and those kinds of things, what is your read on that?” she said.
“I couldn’t agree with you more. Our mental health issue calls have skyrocketed, substance abuse issue calls have skyrocketed, even during this pandemic,” Chief Carline said. “It’s a grave concern; it’s something we strive to get updated training to keep up with the national best practices.”
Ms. Stevenson then asked Chief Carline about the white supremacist propaganda by the group Patriot Front discovered in the Mashpee Commons earlier this year.
The police chief said, “We are going to initiate a criminal investigation into any of those issues that come forward and are brought to our attention. Something of this magnitude would be forwarded to our detective bureau.”
The detective bureau might then reach out to other agencies, experts in the field and federal resources, Chief Carline said.
“Each one of these would get fully investigated, and if it did rise to the level that I thought the community needed to know, I’m going to come out and I’m going to get right in front of it,” he said. “If you need to know about it, you’re going to hear about it from me.”
Ms. Stevenson asked a final question about the department’s policies surrounding use of force.
Chief Carline said he reviews every use-of-force incident that occurs.
“They are directed to send me a separate email on every use-of-force incident,” the chief said of his officers. “As part of our police accreditation we did upgrade our use-of-force policy—or actually we call it response to resistance.”
Ms. Stevenson, Ms. Johnson-Graham and Ms. Nadeau each praised various aspects of the department and the chief’s work during their comments.