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Volunteers sought for "Community Police Relations Board"

June 24, 2021

HOLYOKE — Acting Mayor Terence Murphy is encouraging residents to apply for the newly formed Community Police Relations Board.

Murphy wants three Holyoke police officers to serve alongside seven civilian members, with him as chair. He hopes to have the board up and running within two weeks.

“It’s my goal to have members of the police force listening to concerns and being able to offer their concerns from a policy perspective,” he said at a news conference Thursday. “It’s vital that we as a community work together to understand there are legitimate concerns, which we need to address.”

Murphy said such concerns should be “addressed in a thoughtful and respectful manner.” Also, the civilian members should feel comfortable sharing their experiences with the police officers on the board while maintaining confidentiality.

“My ultimate goal is that by working together, listening to the concerns of citizens, and gaining a greater understanding of the challenges the police department faces, we will all be better off,” he said. “Creating a positive environment to discuss these issues can also provide greater public safety for all of us.”

Murphy said he spoke with several police officers who have strong ties to the community about serving on the board. He emphasized that he maintains an open-door policy with residents who wish to speak in confidence with him.

The mayor also addressed his recent rescinding of an executive order filed in June 2020 by former Mayor Alex B. Morse. Morse’s order stated racism and police violence were public health concerns, especially for minorities. The order also called for a formation of a Citizen Police Advisory Committee. While formed, the committee met infrequently.

Murphy said Morse did not act on several components of his executive order. But Murphy’s decision to rescind it caused blowback from the public and fellow city councilors. In the aftermath of the controversy, Murphy called for a community board to bring both sides together and begin a dialogue.

“I want the police involved. And I want the community involved. I want the dialogue, so all points of view are heard, and all concerns and solutions are considered, and that we move forward in a positive direction,” Murphy said.

The City Council would not have appointment authority or oversight of the board, according to Murphy. Murphy said he would leave it up to the next mayor whether to maintain the board.

The Holyoke Fire Department, Department of Public Works, Water Works, Parks and Recreation, and Holyoke Gas & Electric all have commissions made up of residents.

Those interested in joining the Community Police Relations Board can call the mayor’s office at 413-322-5510.

Murphy on Thursday also announced a COVID-19 mobile vaccine clinic on Sunday at Springdale Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church parking lot on Chestnut Street from 3 to 6 p.m.

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