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Lanesborough Adds New Police Advisory Member
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
05:45AM / Thursday, June 20, 2024
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LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — A seasoned criminal justice professional will join the infrequent Police Advisory Review Commission.

Last month, the Select Board nominated Melody Hood for the vacant seat on the panel. The commission, which has met twice over the last two years, is tasked with coordinating with the chief for the search and interview process of law enforcement, making recommendations to the board, and advising on issues relative to the department.

PARC's first iteration is said to date back to at least the 1970s. The committee has not met regularly since 2021.

"I recently moved to Lanesborough, and I absolutely love it here," Hood said. "This is the most beautiful spot that I've ever lived so I'm very happy to be here and the opportunity to be on the Police Advisory Review Committee kind of piqued my interest."

She started her career in criminal justice "a long time ago" as a police officer in Tulsa, Okla., and earned a master's degree in the field. Hood has worked for the Oklahoma Department of Investigation doing undercover work for misconduct and corruption involving city officials, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation as an undercover narcotics agent, and with education departments after earning a doctorate in education leadership.

"Most of what I know so far is that it's about reviewing applicants for the police department and I don't know if that includes all uniform personnel as well as support staff but that's some of what I'd like to find out this evening," she said.

Select Board member Timothy Sorrell, former police chief, noted that the bylaw doesn't state that the commission has to interview all applications.

"It does state that you take part at the interview of the police chief applicant when we have a police chief vacancy, you have to recommend the police chief to the Select Board for the job. But I've been here 34 years and actually, prior to that, in fact, it's always been the police advisory board has sat in with the chief as a chief asks the questions and does the interviews, and usually, you know, allows the advisory committee to ask a couple of questions if we want," he said.

"I like it just for the sake of transparency. That way, we have somebody from the town who was sitting in there with the chief and heard the right answers."

Earlier this year, Police Chief Robert Derksen and standing Chair Aaron Williams spoke to the board about the future of the panel, citing years of officials questioning its purpose. They spoke about revising the panel and Select Board member Michael Murphy clarified that he was not looking to dissolve it.

"We may have to tweak, Dr. Hood, the role of that committee going forward but at this point, our expectation is that committee will still play a role," Murphy said.

Derksen said PARC is only an interviewing body and was formed with the intent to also monitor officer discipline, which is now handled by the state Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission. The POST Commission also interviews officers who have not previously worked in the state.

Sorrell had requested that Hood come in for an interview.

"Usually it's always somebody we know, not just an application we're looking at," he said. "I'm very happy, very pleased with your credentials."

In other news, the Police Department received a grant for a drug take-back bin that was placed in the lobby.

"It's basically a mailbox, and the grant pays for the mailbox itself and actually pays for the collection of the pharmaceuticals," Derksen said.

"They go right into a pre-postage box and we mail them to a pharmaceutical company to dispose of so like I said, everything is fully funded and there's definitely been a need for it."

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