Learning About the Bedford Police Department ~ Part IV of IV

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles about the Bedford Police Department – its philosophy, values, personnel, partnership, and plans – and how they fit into the current national conversation.  Click this link to read Part I, or this link to read Part II, or this link to read Part III.

What will the Bedford Police Department look like in three years?

A strategic planning process is underway to help answer that question. And Chief Robert Bongiorno and Town Manager Sarah Stanton want residents to have an opportunity to contribute.

“We want this plan to be a living, breathing, working document, so what we identify is achievable,” Bongiorno said. “Strategic plans provide a roadmap for the future. That’s why they’re effective.”

He acknowledged, however, that the uncertainty caused by the pandemic will have a major impact. “The world has changed, and I think it will have a significant impact,” he said, including available resources.

“We are looking at some pretty lean times. Our station renovation is on hold. Our staffing study is on hold. The goals of the town may have changed.”

The officials explained how they hope residents have the opportunity to voice opinions. “We are working with the town manager, and we are going to see how the police reform legislation plays out,” Bongiorno said. “Then we will be happy to meet with citizens,” perhaps even in a live outdoor setting, Stanton said. “The world is a little unsteady, and we are trying had to make sure we have an open door.”

“We always are a work in progress and our door is open to suggestions,” she added. “There is always room to improve.”

The planning process began shortly before Covid-19 brought normal governmental activity to a halt. “Working with an outside consultant, we got the ball rolling, which included looking at the mission and identifying the stakeholders,” Bongiorno said.

When it resumes, there will be interviews with “external and internal stakeholders,” then a couple of eight-hour sessions among the core leaders, with input from the consultant. The entire process, he said, will take 30-60 days.

External stakeholders are elected and appointed officials, school leaders, clergy, residents. The internal stakeholders comprise a cross-section of the department, the chief said – older and younger, dispatchers, training officers, detectives. “We want the voice of the young officers. It’s important to get their input,” he said.

“We really need to be cautious of the future – we might delay the process slightly and see how Covid plays out,” he emphasized.

The most recent Police Department strategic plan, covering the period 2014-2019, addressed issues including staffing, resources and equipment, training and human resources initiatives, traffic management improvements, facilities, and services. The new plan, covering three years, will be more simplified, the chief said. “We want a Police Department that is transparent and accessible to all.”

The pandemic puts everything in “a holding pattern,” he acknowledged. “We need to be realistic and maybe hit the pause button.”

Regarding the most recent plan, Bongiorno said “we will look at what we didn’t accomplish and some of that could be returned if still applicable.” But not all of it. A recommendation for more training on the use of tasers is “an example of how policing has changed and how priorities have changed.”

There’s another proposal — for a canine unit. Bongiorno mused that this might still be a goal, but not in the traditional investigatory role. “What we are seeing now are some departments using dogs for comfort. Maybe the police working dog could become a comfort dog who would visit the Council on Aging or the schools, as well as victims of crime.”

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