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Police Chief Michael Wynn walks with a Black Lives Matter rally last summer. Wynn, who was appointed to a new state policing commission, says Pittsfield has been proactive in its policing policies.

Pittsfield Police Chief Wynn Brings 'Unique' Background to State Policing Commission

By Brittany Polito
iBerkshires Staff
04:11AM / Thursday, April 08, 2021
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police Chief Michael Wynn is ready to represent Western Massachusetts on the state's new commission for police training.
 
Wynn's appointment to the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission was announced last week by Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey.
 
"The fact that I'm a Western Mass police chief is something that's been greatly talked about in the last several days," he said. "I don't think anybody expected that the governor's appointed chief would be from this far west."
 
The independent agency with appointees from the governor and attorney general was established by Chapter 253 of the Acts of 2020 signed by the governor in December 2020. It is part of the police reform bill and aims to create conduct standards and be responsible for investigating and adjudicating claims of misconduct, maintaining databases of training, certification, employment, and internal affairs records for all officers, and certifying law enforcement agencies.
 
Wynn describes himself as having a "fairly unique" training background for a police chief, including serving as a subject matter instructor and drill instructor at multiple police academies, a Leadership Fellow with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's Leadership Development Unit, and an adjunct professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
 
The Williams College graduate recently collaborated with Police Advisory Review Board member Drew Herzig to create a policy for interacting with transgender individuals that was approved earlier this year. This features imperative themes such as gender expression, adopted names, non-removal of gender-confirming items, and detainees being held in a cell corresponding with their gender expression.
 
The policy aims to make transgender individuals able to access the Police Department without being traumatized in the process.
 
Wynn also received a Programming Excellence Award in the category of Radio Programming series for his department's "On Patrol with the PPD" radio program on WTBR. The program that was established prior to the COVID-19 pandemic also served as a communication resource to share public health information.
 
Wynn aims to ensure that smaller Berkshire County communities will be advocated for in policies established by the POST committee, answering questions about what the processes will look like for officers who have gone through the Part-time Police Academy at Berkshire Law Enforcement Council.
 
"All of my fellow chiefs out here do have part-time officers," he said.
 
Wynn, who has been with the Pittsfield force since 1995, said there is a lot more external scrutiny now, and people are generally interested in what the department is doing. The police reform bill passed in December reached Gov. Charlie Baker's desk six months after George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer and nine months after Breonna Taylor was fatally shot in her home in Louisville, Ky., by police.
 
S.2963: An Act relative to Justice, Equity and Accountability in Law Enforcement in the Commonwealth was declared to be an "emergency law necessary for the immediate preservation of the public safety."
 
Massachusetts law enforcement leaders have been asking for these tools for years, Wynn said, because there's a nationally available database of other states where police departments can find out if an officer was terminated or disciplined for misconduct but nothing similar in the commonwealth.
 
"So I could have a candidate that's a potential hire that we could check them out nationally to find out if they've had issues with other departments, but I can't find out if they had an issue with another department two counties away," he said.
 
"Certification, there are questions about it and there are concerns, but everybody who is currently working is going to receive their certification and they know nothing has been done yet to determine what's going to be required for recertification. So again, that's the work that has to be done, regarding recertification," he said. "The concern that I'm hearing from my level officers is they want to make sure that their due process rights are protected, they should be, so whatever happens needs to be based on a thorough investigation and sought with findings, not emotion."
 
Wynn expressed personal frustration for the lack of questions his department had received in 2020 regarding what they had been proactively working on in the scope of police reform before the bill was passed.
 
"There was a lot of debate and a lot of discussion about reforming police or improving police but there wasn't a lot of questions about the work that we had already done," he explained. "There are several training topics that are mandated in the reform legislation that the municipal police training committee has already required for several years, so a lot of that work we took upon ourselves and have already either completed or made a lot of progress toward. Nobody took time to pause and recognize."
 
When asked if Pittsfield Police were committed to the process of engaging in the hard work of building an equitable society at a June rally for Black Lives Matter, his simple answer was "yes."
 
Though police reform didn't start being an immediate topic of conversation until last spring, Wynn said the Massachusetts Chiefs Police Association recognized that the climate was changing as early as 2014.
 
He explained that around 2015, the state began proactively changing training topics that are included in the police reform bill such as de-escalation.
 
"We had already identified national model from the police executive research forum called 'integrated communications assessment and tactics,'" he said. "That's been an in-service topic for several years, we had already incorporated specialized training, dealing with people in crisis and mental illness. And again, you know, that's a topic that's been repeated for several years."
 
The chief said he is excited to meet his colleagues and find out what the next steps will be for the commission.

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