New Bedford Police Department Releases Two-Year Assessment
NEW BEDFORD (WBSM) — The New Bedford Police Department announced on Thursday the findings of a two-year comprehensive review of the department's policies and conduct.
The assessment, conducted by global consulting company Jensen Hughes, began in December 2021 at the behest of Chief Paul Oliveira to find out what the department has done right and how it can improve community policing.
The report found that the department performed well, particularly with transparency and officer morale.
The report also recommended the immediate implementation of reforms that would make salaries more competitive, begin training for body cameras and restructure the non-union position of the superintendent into two separate positions.
At a press conference at the police headquarters on Thursday, Jensen Hughes Vice President Robert Wasserman said the New Bedford Police Department is one of the few remaining departments where the officers and supervisors are in the same union something he called "very rare."
He said officers who are supervisors are in a separate union as they handle disciplinary actions.
Wasserman also said the department should consolidate Police Station 3 with the headquarters.
"Most departments this size have only one station because you want officers out there working in the field and not in a building," Wasserman said. "We recommend a new station be built in an area that would incorporate the headquarters in it."
Mayor Jon Mitchell, who was also present at the press conference along with Oliveira, said the assessment was done to improve policing in New Bedford.
He said the department has shown improvement in many ways but that there is always a need to improve.
Mitchell said implementing body cameras, for example, would help improve transparency and accountability between police and the public by ensuring officers are following the correct procedures and not using excessive force.
"This is all part of the parcel of the ethics that we have in the New Bedford way, which is to allow constant improvement," Mitchell said. "This is especially true in the police department."
The push for a reassessment of the police department dates back to April 2021, when the Citizens for Juvenile Justice released a report titled "We Are The Prey."
The report found several instances of officers over-policing Black residents in New Bedford as the system used to determine if a suspect in a gang was more likely to have Black and Latino members in their database.
In response, the NBPD released a new gang policy that updated its gang identification system to identify better which individuals were gang members.
Chief Oliveira then hired Jensen Hughes to conduct a more thorough assessment of the department to determine how to improve 21st Century Policing.
According to Oliveira, 21st Century Policing is a policy framework to prevent the lack of confidence in police departments nationally after several high-profile police interactions and incidents.
Oliveira said the report, while informative, is not the ultimate resolution to improving the department.
"We're here to serve the public," Oliveira said. "If there are some other concerns or if there are any concerns that are not rightfully addressed in this report, we'll always take those concerns up."
The full report can be read here.