|Pittsfield Police to Reissue Rules And Regulations|
|By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff|
12:40AM / Friday, January 24, 2020
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Police Department will reissue its rules and regulations to all officers in response to an issuance error.
Police Chief Michael Wynn discussed two cases with the Police Advisory and Review Board on Tuesday that have prompted it to reissue rules and regulations across the board.
"All members of the department will get a new version and then re-sign for them," Wynn said. "We will probably make everybody re-sign for them on a two- or three-year basis."
Wynn said one of the cases dealt with an officer sharing information about an ongoing investigation "out of school" in a social setting and the other dealt with an employee sharing inappropriate information on social media.
The chief said the rules and regulations have been revised three times in the last 12 years, however, the last revision was some time ago.
"One of the things we realized was we have gone through three major revisions of the rules and regulations in the past 12 years," Wynn said. "The most recent was in 2011 and we haven't had an edit or revision since."
Both of these cases violated the department's rules and regulations that all officers are issued and asked to sign off on a receipt agreeing that they have read them.
Wynn said in one of these cases the officer did sign off on his receipt but in 2011. The other did not.
"When we went electronic we missed some things," he said. "He had got it but he had not signed for them so that is what prompted us to reissue it."
He added that with the new electronic version, they can actually test officers more regularly with "pop quizzes."
Wynn said he had yet to issue discipline on the social media case so was hesitant to share too many details and board member Michael Feldberg asked if it was possible to receive more information on officer discipline in general.
"I am trying to figure out what the correlation is between our role in hearing about these cases and not knowing what the outcome is," he said. "Are we supposed to feed anything back to you?"
Wynn said he cannot share these details.
"I can't disclose discipline ... the details of the discipline are protected personnel records," he said.
Wynn said disciplinary details only become public if they "break the seal" on their personal record and share the details. He can only share that the officer was punished.
Wynn said he felt the board's role, especially with external investigations, is to make sure the department follows through, completes an impartial investigation, and adheres to due process.
Chairwoman Ellen Maxon added that she thought the board's role was to really comment on policy. She said if an incident occurs, they should ask questions about training and how often like instances occur.
Feldberg then asked about the social media case and wanted to know if officers were fully protected under the First Amendment.
Wynn said, as a paramilitary organization, employees are restricted in what they can say in relation to their duties. He said this is clear in the department's rules and regulations and is backed up by state law.
"Social media conventions or customs aside, it would not have mattered if he said it on social media, in a letter to the editor, or at Park Square at a rally," Wynn said. "It was specifically related to his on-duty conduct he expressed his opinion. It was less than flattering of another governmental entity, and engaged in law enforcement. It did not matter what form he chose."
In other business, the board agreed to reach out to the City Council again about addressing the decrepit police station.