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Late last week, WCVB-TV BOSTON reported that newly enacted police reform legislation in Massachusetts will require "non-traditional police" officials—people such as harbormasters, natural resource officers, and constables—to complete additional training to continue as officially certified for the job.

The Massachusetts Police Training Committee (MPTC) will now reportedly require those individuals to complete between 200 and 800 hours of additional training, depending on whether or not they've previously completed a reserve academy or a full-time academy.

Salem (MA) Harbormaster Bill McHugh told the TV station that he is all for receiving training, but thinks that it should be specifically tailored for the jobs they perform, such as his job of patrolling the waterways on the coast of Massachusetts just north of Boston.

"We spend our time on boats, not in cruisers," McHugh said.

Chatham (MA) Harbormaster Stuart Smith agreed, adding, "I am not a police officer... I don't have that level of responsibility."

Unintended Consequences

The new requirement for people like Smith and McHugh comes as smaller agencies in the Codfish State struggle to hire part-time reserve officers because "reform legislation" signed into law at the end of 2020 had the unintended consequence of essentially killing the program used to train them.

In Dalton—a bucolic hamlet in the Berkshires about 15 miles from the state's western border—Police Chief Deanna Strout had intended to send a newly-hired recruit to the reserve academy at Springfield Technical Community College only to find out that it was shut down.

According to the Berkshire Eagle, Strout's department is in something of a holding pattern, as if the reform law had imposed a hiring freeze.

Meanwhile, just south of Dalton in the Town of Lee, Chief Craig DeSantis says that the reform legislation will eventually lead smaller departments to discontinue use of reserve officers.

"I see no long-term staffing model that maintains reserves," DeSantis said. "That will have a significant impact on many communities."

Rocket Surgery

Under the abovementioned reform legislation, an estimated 3,600 individuals—including harbormasters Smith and McHugh—will have to have additional training to remain certified for their current duties.

Meanwhile, leaders of small departments that had historically relied on a cadre of part-time officers to fulfil their public safety objectives are left in the lurch.

For its part, the MPTC said in a written statement, "While we understand that there are questions about the status of reserve officers in the Commonwealth and the impact this law will have on numerous agencies … we ask for your patience at this time as we develop a plan to move forward."

In a way, it should be totally unsurprising that the recently enacted "police reform" legislation in Massachusetts will require harbormasters to complete added police training at the same time that reserve academy training is eliminated. After all, as Orwell predicted, "Ignorance Is Strength."

Training—more frequent training, more focused training—is a laudable goal in nearly every human endeavor. Providing law enforcement professionals with added training is especially important.

But mandating training that is not suited to the necessary task(s) at hand "just because" is unnecessary and unproductive.

Just as NASA engineers should be well-versed in astrophysics and medical professionals should be expert in human anatomy, patrol officers and harbormasters should have training specifically tailored to their specialized assignments.

The world has no need for rocket surgeons.

Author

Doug Wyllie
Doug Wyllie

Contributing Editor

Doug Wyllie has authored thousands of feature articles, opinion columns, news reports, and tactical tips with the goal of ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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Doug Wyllie has authored thousands of feature articles, opinion columns, news reports, and tactical tips with the goal of ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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