HANSON — The town’s Police Department has seen many changes in the past year and a half, according to Police Chief Michael Miksch in his quarterly report to the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, June 15.
Many of those changes are due to the passage of the Police Reform Act, some of which was passed as emergency legislation.
“The governor signed it and they expected us to have everything done the next day,” Miksch said. “That was impossible. Some of them are being implemented in, but one of the first things that needed to be taken care of was a re-do and review of our Use of Force policy.”
Miksch said the effect of that provision wasn’t that bad for Hanson because the department had an up-to-date policy, meaning only minor changes were needed.
“I never thought I’d have to put into a policy that you can’t choke somebody, but I did,” he said. “I thought it was common sense — something that people should understand in Massachusetts. None of us had been trained that way.”
He said in the more than 26 years he has been a police officer that — choke holds, carotid artery holds — has never been taught to us,” Miksch said. “So, we never said, ‘Don’t do it,’ because you were never taught to do it in the beginning.”
The policy was updated in any case, with Lt. Mike Casey doing a lot of that work.
Grants made available to departments across the country through an executive order by President Biden also carried requirements for certain terms of service and policies, one of which governed use of force. The department had to undergo a state accreditation process to prove they had made such policy revisions.
The department received a letter on June 14 that its use of force policy met both federal and state standards. Miksch said his department also incorporates the policy in training between two and four times a year.
Officers will also need to be certified under the reform act. One effect of the requirement has Miksch busy with administrative tasks and he foresees some budgetary impact in future years, but for now the department is in good financial shape.
Personnel changes have also been dealt with and he thanked the town for approving the override to save officers’ jobs.
“We went to regional dispatch a year ago — last June,” he said. “With that, I lost three very dedicated civilian employees who, I’m very happy to say, have actually found other jobs and are working.”
One was moved to serve as Miksch’s administrative assistant and another was transferred to the police academy.
Sgt. Gene Andrews hired just before COVID hit last year, retired after more than 30 years on the department.
“Normally, we’d bring those people in with their families and thank them and bring in the new officers and swear them in,” Miksch said. “When Sgt. Andrews retired, it opened up a promotion and I was very proud to promote Jared Meegan as sergeant who, of course, is banished to midnights where all new sergeants go.”
Four new officers were hired in order to keep the station open after the civilian dispatchers were let go to regionalize that operation. Officers Corey Arsenault and Mario Thompson, who were present or former part-time officers in Hanson as well as Bobby Mansfield, from Oak Bluffs Police and Rick Bekerian from Hopedale were also hired. Officer Chris Dominguez left the department when he was offered a better salary from Braintree.
“Internally, there’s been a lot of changes,” Miksch said. “There’s been a lot of adapting, but overall, it’s going well.”
On a somewhat humorous note, Miksch said a lock is being installed on the door to the police station for the first time ever.
“There is no lock,” he said. “[It’s a] good and a bad thing. We never needed it — there was always somebody there to say, ‘Hi!’ We plan on keeping someone there to say, ‘Hi!’ but unfortunately, because of the nature of operations within the department, there’s a desk officer when you walk in, now.”