By Susan Petroni/Framingham Patch
After a drunk driving case involving a Natick Police officer
crossing the border into Framingham was thrown out in the court system,
Middlesex County police chiefs began researching and working on a way to work
cooperatively across community borders. On March 18, the chief's association
announced the signing of a mutual aid agreement that will allow on-duty police
officers in one community to respond to public safety emergencies in other
participating jurisdictions, in certain emergency circumstances.
According to a statement, 51 of the 54 communities in Middlesex County, as well as Wellesley, Lynnfield, and Saugus, have agreed to a strategic working partnership among the departments. Police chiefs now have a formal method of requesting immediate mutual aid assistance from neighboring communities during a critical incident or crime in progress.
“Police officers are expected to always be police officers, and they should never have to put themselves or others in danger by hastily rushing to stop a reckless driver or wanted felon before the town line,” said Weston Police Chief Steven Shaw, president of the Middlesex County Chiefs of Police Association in a press release. “Crime doesn’t stop at the border, and this agreement will help ensure that criminals can’t escape the law by escaping one community.”
The agreement is the product of more than a year of research and work by a special subcommittee of the Middlesex County Chiefs of Police Association, led by Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan. The work stemmed from two Supreme Judicial Court Decisions: Commonwealth v. LeBlanc (1990) and Commonwealth v. Bartlett (2013).
In the LeBLanc case, a drunk driver’s case was thrown out of court because a Natick Police officer followed the driver, who had been speeding and ran a red light, across the border into Framingham. The case left police with little recourse, under the law at the time. The Bartlett case, however, held that police departments could establish inter-agency mutual aid agreements, extending policing powers to neighboring communities.
Middlesex is the first county in Massachusetts to sign a county-wide agreement.
The agreement also covers nearly every community that the 2014 Boston Marathon will pass through. Major events like the marathon attacks last year and the security efforts for the marathon this year underscore the need for cooperation among different law enforcement organizations.
“Major events in Massachusetts and elsewhere have highlighted the need for police departments to work together more effectively, and these events have shown that we are indeed more effective when we work together,” said Bedford Police Chief Robert Bongiorno, secretary of the Middlesex County Chiefs of Police Association in a press release.
“Working together, across invisible boundaries, is a real step in the right direction,” said Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin, treasurer of the association. “I’m proud to sign this agreement. It will make the community safer, and it will keep police officers safe.”
The agreement allows municipal police chiefs to retain command and control of incidents in their communities during incidents. It also requires police officers to notify the commanding officer of the community when they enter to conduct policing activities.
Of the three remaining departments in Middlesex County, the chiefs of the Waltham and Winchester police departments have submitted the agreement to their municipal government for approval. Cambridge has not signed the agreement at this time.