PROVINCETOWN — Chief Jim Golden and Sgt. Jennifer Nolette on Monday morning defended a controversial police encounter with local young men of color, just over a week after a false report of a “kid … dancing … with a gun in his hand” summoned three police cruisers, sirens blaring, to the East End basketball court.
WELLFLEET — The second smallest municipal police department on the Cape has become the first in the county to outfit all its officers with body cameras.
Wellfleet town meeting voters spent $30,000 last year to give all 15 police officers Axon body cameras. Maintenance, licensing, and storing of the video will cost $15,000 annually.
Currently, four officers have been trained to use them, but within a month all sworn officers on the force will be able to hook the cameras to their vests at the beginning of every shift.
Wellfleet’s policy, which could change as the department gains experience, is to record video and audio of every interaction the police have with the public. The officers must notify people that they are being recorded.
At first, it was proponents of the police reform movement who wanted the cameras as a tool to increase accountability, reduce police brutality, and root out bad behavior by rogue officers.
But officers who have used the technology for years, mostly in Southern and Western states like Florida, Arizona, Kansas, and California, have found that the video footage exonerates the police in the majority of cases, according to 2014 study by the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
Wellfleet Police Chief Mike Hurley expects the cameras to be a “win-win” for officers and the public. They will moderate the behavior of both, he believes.
Cameras can help “de-escalate” a confrontation, Hurley said. “Knowing that it is being documented does hold things back a little bit.”
Video footage will be used in court as evidence to document a scene. This can be important in cases lacking other witnesses or physical evidence, which can otherwise turn into a he-said-she-said argument in the courtroom.
“Video can be powerful,” Hurley said.
Only 10 percent of Massachusetts city and town police departments currently use the technology. But according to a poll by the Mass. Chiefs of Police Association, three-quarters of the police departments in major cities and smaller communities are interested in starting a camera program.
Gov. Charlie Baker is also a fan.
In July, his administration announced a new $20-million body camera grant program for municipal police departments. The state aims to give out 9,000 cameras over five years, according to the governor’s office.
The grant qualification, according to Baker’s announcement, includes a requirement to “describe a deliberate and phased plan to deploy the technology, as well as specific ways the proposed program will enhance the agency’s mission.”
Wellfleet is rolling out the cameras while still working out related policies. And cameras present some messy questions, such as how long to store the videos and how exactly they are released if there is a public records request. That gets complicated when minors or innocent parties are in the videos. Perhaps the trickiest question is what to do if a police officer does not turn on the camera.
For now, while Wellfleet officers get used to it, there will be no punishment for failing to press the “on” button, Hurley said, unless it becomes a pattern. The type of camera Wellfleet bought includes a powerful safety feature. When an officer pulls a Taser or gun from its holster, the Axon cameras will automatically turn on, said Officer Jeremiah Valli.
Allowing police discretion to turn on a camera or not could erode the public trust, according to the Mass. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU has recommended that Massachusetts courts adopt a “no tape, no testimony” policy. That is, if an officer uses “bad faith” — which a jury would have to determine — by turning off the camera, the jury must disregard the officer’s testimony entirely.
Hurley said he is drafting department policies based on the ones used by the Mass. State Police, who started using them in December, and on the Mashpee Police Dept.’s pilot program. Both the Mashpee and the Yarmouth police are poised to bring body cameras to their departments this year, Hurley said.
Wellfleet’s final policy will come from the Mass. Commission on Police Body Cameras, he added. The 25-member commission, which includes representatives of law enforcement, legislators, and the NAACP, was supposed to have a policy draft by July 2021. Angela Davis, chair of the commission and state undersecretary of law enforcement and criminal justice, said it is now expected “early this year,” according to the Boston Herald.
Valli explained that the cameras are like mini-computers. They have multiple microphones that can focus on the human voice and minimize wind noise that ruins ordinary phone recordings. If the police radios fail, Valli said, and an officer cannot be reached by dispatch, the dispatchers will be able to livestream the officer’s location. This, however, depends on good cellular service, he added. Police frequently respond to fights at or outside the Beachcomber, which lies in a notorious radio dead zone at Cahoon Hollow Beach, Valli said.
Ryan Curley, the select board chair, said the Wellfleet police have had body cameras in the town’s capital budget for four years. He wanted it on the warrant as an override in 2021, but the rest of the board voted to put it directly into the police budget, which passed. Either way, Curley is happy they are here.
“I think it is necessary in this day and age,” he said. “My perspective is it is for police accountability.”
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article, published in print on Jan. 27, omitted the fact that the Cape Cod National Seashore’s law enforcement park rangers have used body cameras since 2014. Thus, the headline “Wellfleet Cops First on Cape to Use Body Cameras” was not technically accurate.
POLICING AND ACCOUNTABILITY
PROVINCETOWN — Massachusetts’s new police reform bill will change many aspects of policing, including training and certification, with new use-of-force rules, a duty to intervene and stop other officers from using unreasonable force, and a decertification process to expel problem officers from the profession.
The bill was passed in response to the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black Americans by police nationwide.
For the small police depts. of the Outer Cape, one significant change concerns oversight. At present, hardly any civilians are “in the loop” on police discipline. In fact, in most cases, the only civilian who knows about a disciplinary situation is the town manager. Select boards are typically not briefed on “personnel matters.”
“The chain of command is: the select board sets policy, the town manager implements it, the town manager is in charge of department heads,” said Bobby Anthony, who was Provincetown’s police chief from 1992 to 2002 and has been on the town’s select board since 2014.
If a specific officer’s conduct were to be questioned, it likely would be classed as a personnel matter and, therefore, would never come before the select board. “We set policy, but we do not interfere” in personnel, said Anthony. “It’s not our purview.”
Some town charters give the select board a stronger role, said Charles Sumner, Provincetown’s interim town manager, who served for decades as Brewster’s town administrator. “There are towns where the officer could appeal a decision to the select board,” Sumner said, “and that hearing could be in open or in executive session.”
There are towns in which a chief might recommend a punishment and the select board gets to vote on it. More typical, though, is that “the officer’s personnel file is going to be protected and confidential, they’re going to accept the punishment the chief decides, and no one in the public is going to know,” said Sumner.
Personnel are protected by these rules for good reasons, said state Rep. Sarah Peake, who served on Provincetown’s select board. But having an officer’s entire file be confidential was an obvious problem.
“An officer could get disciplined and released from employment, go to a different part of the state, and get hired without the new community knowing anything about their history,” said Peake. “That is what has to stop.”
The police reform bill makes major changes to the oversight of discipline and what the public can know about it.
A core feature of the bill is the formation of a Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) commission. The POST will have a multitude of new powers, including receiving civilian complaints, conducting its own investigations, and decertifying officers, which would prevent them from working for any law enforcement agency in the state.
Most disciplinary activity would still take place within local departments, but police chiefs will be obligated to report complaints of misconduct to the POST, and to report on the progress and outcome of their disciplinary investigations as well. The POST will have a public database of all officers, including their disciplinary records. It will also have an internal database of all misconduct complaints, no matter their outcome, in order to look for patterns that might indicate a problem.
And, in a key departure from other states, the new POST will be majority civilian.
“There is a proud tradition in this country of the civilian oversight of the use of force,” said state Sen. Julian Cyr. “Our military is structured that way. Oversight of policing should be as well. That’s why this bill is a really big deal.
“The board that determines whether or not an officer is not just disciplined but decertified is going to be a nine-member board, six of whom are civilians,” Cyr added. “No state has a civilian-controlled board. Massachusetts is now the first.”
The POST commission is appointed by the governor and the state’s attorney general, and will include one police chief, two police officers, a retired judge, a social worker, a civil rights lawyer, and three other civilians.
Locally, officer discipline will still mostly be handled between police chiefs and town managers, but there will be other civilians in the loop now, and the public will know of any affirmative results.
Communication between police and public shouldn’t be confined to matters of discipline, said Anthony.
“Back in 1992, we had a community policing committee,” he said. “It consisted of the chief, the town government, and members of the community — activists and all kinds of people. It was for a specific issue — the amount of hate crimes we had going on in those years, anti-gay hate crimes — but we used to meet once a week in the Judge Welsh room in town hall. The public was invited to all those meetings. And we brought the hate crimes down to zero.
“Community policing — it’s a philosophy that government, the police, and the community work together to take care of issues, good or bad, whatever they are,” Anthony continued. “Communication is the most important part of community policing. It’s open communication all around that triangle. I don’t think anything can’t be solved if we talk about it.”
“I believe this [legislation] is going to be a win-win for every good and honorable police officer in Massachusetts,” said Peake. “It’s good for the public, and for the people who honorably serve, wearing that blue uniform. That’s why I proudly voted for this legislation.”
“I want to be clear that we have so much work left to do on racial justice and police reform,” said Cyr, who also voted for the bill. “This new law is just a start. It relies on policing expertise, while providing civilian accountability over policing. While it isn’t perfect, I’m hopeful.”
TRURO — Driving north on Route 6 around midnight last Sunday, Shelby Zawaduk passed a car she could’ve sworn she recognized. Stopped by police just shy of Truro’s Stotts Crossing was a blue Toyota RAV4 that matched Zawaduk’s boyfriend’s family vehicle in make, model, and je-ne-sais-quoi. The car’s driver, though, was a stranger. Zawaduk shook off her premonition and continued north.
Back at Stotts Crossing, Joshua Scoullar, 27, with addresses in West Dennis and North Attleboro, was, according to Truro Patrol Officer Christopher Cheverie Jr.’s report, fidgeting. The blue Toyota RAV4 in which he’d pushed 70 miles per hour in a 50-mile-per-hour zone was his aunt’s, he told Cheverie. He’d just borrowed it to drive around and cool off. No, he didn’t have the registration, or his license. And no, he couldn’t remember Aunt April’s last name.
Some prodding from Cheverie and a database search revealed two things. One: the Toyota was registered to Provincetown’s Luster Packard Inc. Two: the Toyota’s driver was the distinctly unlicensed Scoullar, facing an active default warrant from Milford District Court for trespassing.
Cheverie told Scoullar what he knew; Scoullar dropped the Aunt April story. He had just been walking in Provincetown, he admitted, when he opened the car’s door and took it for a drive. Cheverie called a tow truck. But before it showed up, another vehicle arrived on scene. It was Zawaduk.
She’d arrived at her boyfriend Caleb Luster’s Provincetown house to learn that his family car was missing from its usual parking spot. Caleb had left it unlocked with the keys inside, he told her. The couple set out on a Toyota-hunt — first stop, Stotts Crossing in Truro.
Luster reclaimed his car; police arrested Scoullar. The Truro police charged him with the unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and speeding. The Provincetown police charged him with larceny under $1,200 (a $50 bill Luster had left in his glovebox was gone), and larceny of a motor vehicle.
Here’s where things get complicated.
Scoullar proved no stranger to the Provincetown P.D.: two Sundays ago, on Oct. 25, Officer Samantha Voltolini arrested him for breaking and entering with intent to commit a misdemeanor and vandalism.
Roy Renwick, an employee at the Provincetown Inn, had been checking the property (closed since Oct. 20) when he saw Scoullar inside room 173, lying on the bed. When Voltolini arrived on scene, Scoullar told her that he’d been staying in the hotel for “one or two days.”
Scoullar was arraigned in Orleans District Court on Oct. 26 and released on personal recognizance. But these vehicular cases sent him back to Orleans, where a more thorough perusal of his background revealed two open cases of larceny of a motor vehicle: one, from Aug. 20, in Attleboro District Court, the other, from May 4, in Fall River District Court.
Hearings in both of those cases allowed for Scoullar’s release on bail, under the condition that he not commit any new offenses. His Nov. 1 exploits violated those conditions.
As a result, at his Nov. 2 arraignment, the Commonwealth moved to revoke Scoullar’s bail and hold him at the Barnstable County Correctional Facility. Judge Robert Welsh upheld the motion.
Scoullar will next appear in Orleans District Court for three separate pretrial hearings on Nov. 23. He is due in both Attleboro District Court and Fall River District Court on Jan. 29, 2021.
Angel Gomez Gonzalez, the Springfield man accused of assaulting George Kraniotakis, 81, of Provincetown, owner of George’s Pizza, was arraigned in Orleans District Court on Oct. 9 on charges of assault and battery, a misdemeanor, and assault and battery on a person over 60 causing serious bodily injury, a felony. That same day, he appeared at a pretrial conference for three separate misdemeanors related to the case.
Provincetown police arrested Gomez on June 27 after Officer Simon Saliba and Seasonal Officer Madison Bentz responded to a 911 call from George’s, a no-fuss town staple. There, Kraniotakis told them he’d been punched in the head.
Kraniotakis said a rowdy group had walked in with their own beers and began yelling and disturbing other patrons. Kraniotakis asked them to leave. They did — but not before one of the group struck him, knocking him to the ground.
Eyewitnesses told officers Bentz and Saliba that the group had headed toward MacMillan Pier, where police found two men fighting. One was Andrew Chartier, a George’s employee who’d seen the attack and, he said, was determined to bring the perpetrator to justice.
The other man, who had bitten Chartier’s arm during the tussle, said his name was “Angel Carraballo.” Security camera footage later confirmed that he was Kraniotakis’s assailant.
Police brought “Carraballo” to the station for booking. When officers prepared to fingerprint him, he complained that his hand was injured and refused to place it on the scanner.
“Gomez started getting nervous,” wrote Saliba, “as if he was hiding something.”
A medical evaluation revealed no problem with the hand or any of its digits. The fingerprinting resumed and found that “Carraballo” was, in fact, Gomez Gonzalez, who, because of a string of firearms and drug charges, was under supervised probation in Hampden County.
Gomez’s assault left Kraniotakis with a perforated eardrum and temporary severe hearing loss in one ear, police were told by Ross Johnston, a Hyannis otolaryngologist. Doctors told police the injury would likely heal, though it would place Kraniotakis at risk of future damage.
Gomez was released after posting $2,500 bail. He next appears in court on Nov. 20, for three separate pretrial conferences.
Meth and Money, in Provincetown
When Police Det. Meredith Lobur entered Joseph Hitchman’s house with a search warrant on Oct. 19, she found Hitchman, 40, reclined in an armchair, a stash of methamphetamine, and $3,000 cash, in a safe bolted to his bed frame.
Officers seized approximately 3.5 grams of methamphetamine in a blue case, shards of the drug in a clear case, and pills in a clear plastic bag. Upstairs, they found two baggies of meth. In a bathroom, Lobur discovered a drug hide tucked inside a bottle of Clorox bleach.
Hitchman was charged with knowingly possessing methamphetamine, a class B substance, with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense it — a felony. He was arraigned on Oct. 20 and posted $5,000 bail.
That same afternoon, the bail was revoked. Records revealed that Hitchman is currently on pretrial probation, charged with hiding or harboring a child. He had been released after a March 6, 2019, hearing on condition that he not be arrested for a new crime.
Hitchman also has a history of convictions and defaults in California, as well as warrants from that state for the distribution of methamphetamine.
Musk and RBG, on Commercial Street
As officers escorted Tressa Mackin, 32, into the Provincetown Police Dept.’s holding area, she began to “scream out, in happiness and joy,” wrote Sgt. Glenn Enos in his police report.
“That’s a spaceship,” Mackin said, “and it’s my new home!”
Enos had been in Lopes Square, in the midst of an Oct. 4 overtime bike shift for mask enforcement and education, when Mackin, metal tripod in hand, began approaching strangers to tell them about her husband: Elon Musk.
She began dancing in the street. Then, wrote Enos, she hung her tripod upside-down from a street sign by two of its three legs. Enos asked her to take it down. She refused. He asked again. She refused, again, more forcefully. He asked her a third time. With a choice expletive, she informed him, “I answer to no man.”
Enos threw the tripod to the ground; Mackin began to scream.
“That is my antenna,” she told him. “I am trying to summon my legal team and my friends.”
Enos grabbed Mackin’s right arm and tried to get her into handcuffs. As she pulled out of his grip, her bare foot made contact, twice, with his left thigh. Then she ran east on Commercial Street.
Enos pursued her on his bike. At the Freeman Street Landing, between the Squealing Pig and Lands End Marine Supply, he caught up to her and forced her hands behind her back.
Mackin screamed for help from “her husband, Elon Musk,” and “her judge, RBG.” She insisted that Enos address her as royalty, then changed her tune: “I am Jackie O,” she told him.
During her booking process, as Mackin sang a song about islands and streams, Police Sgt. Kevan Spoor asked Mackin if she’d consumed alcohol or drugs. She responded in the affirmative.
Enos charged Mackin with disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace. He also deemed her two barefooted strikes to his thigh sufficiently aggressive to charge her with assault and battery on a police officer. Mackin was arraigned on Oct. 20. Released on personal recognizance, she’ll next appear in court on Nov. 20 for a pretrial conference.
Mackin has two prior appearances in Orleans District Court. In July 2019, Truro police charged her with negligent operation of a motor vehicle and operation under the influence of liquor. Those charges were both dismissed — the first upon the recommendation of the probation department, and the second upon the request of the Commonwealth. In January 2018, she was charged with the unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle; that, too, was dismissed.
POLICING, PART 3
As U.S. police forces face a reckoning, issues of transparency and racial equity are on the table at the State House in Boston. A conference committee works on a bill that aims to “reform police standards and shift resources to build a more equitable, fair and just commonwealth that values Black lives and communities of color.” But as Massachusetts joins a nationwide conversation, one Outer Cape police force finds itself outside it: law enforcement rangers in the Cape Cod National Seashore.
The Seashore covers 43,607 acres from Chatham to Provincetown. Three very different types of federal agents — all rangers — oversee the parkland.
Research rangers concern themselves with natural resources and history; interpretive rangers staff visitor centers, offer cultural information, and guide tours. The Seashore also has a permanent staff of 11 law enforcement rangers. They are supplemented by eight seasonal rangers from April through September.
Law enforcement rangers wield the same authority as U.S. marshals and F.B.I. officers. Each carries a sidearm and a long gun. They have primary jurisdiction over 27,000 acres of the Seashore, and are responsible (“in close collaboration with town police departments,” said Supt. Brian Carlstrom) for enforcing federal law there.
“The work of a law enforcement ranger has three prongs,” said Leslie Reynolds, the Seashore’s deputy supt. and former chief ranger. “We protect the people from the people: domestic violence, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, theft. We protect people from the park: If you get lost, we’ll try to find you. If you get separated from your group, we’ll try to reunite you. If you’re injured, we’ll treat you. And last, we protect the park from the people: we make sure people don’t pick flowers or collect minerals they’re not supposed to, or vandalize, dump in the park, or poach.”
Reynolds stressed that law enforcement rangers deal most often with just two types of issues: park versus people, and people versus park.
In 2019, permit issues made up 6 percent of the violations and accounted for 14 percent of rangers’ warnings; 16 percent of violations were for drug and alcohol use; 13 percent were for pets. Out-of-bounds camping was to blame for 2 percent of warnings. Nudity at Provincetown beaches accounted, Reynolds said, for “quite a lot” of work.
But the vast majority of the rangers’ contacts with the public — 56 percent of warnings and 48 percent of violation notices — fell into one category: traffic stops.
Analyzing data from traffic stops is widely accepted as the best way to gauge racial bias in policing. Disproportion between the size of a town’s community of color and the percentage of drivers of color pulled over by law enforcement can indicate bias. So do differences between the number of nonwhite drivers stopped during daylight versus at night; a Stanford-led study published in May analyzed 95 million records and found that, after sunset, when “a veil of darkness” masks race, police officers were much less likely to pull over black drivers.
Police departments in Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, and Provincetown already collect racial data for every traffic stop, even those that don’t result in a citation or arrest. And section 63(d)5 of the proposed Reform, Shift, and Build Act would make mandatory an annual review by every Massachusetts police department of its stop and search data, an analysis of racial or other disparities, and the publication of a report detailing said analysis.
That legislation, though, would evidently not apply to the Seashore police. They are subject to federal reporting guidelines.
When a law enforcement ranger makes a contact, a Boston-based dispatcher inputs the information into a computer-aided dispatch, or CAD, system, which feeds into an information management system (IMARS) shared by park rangers and park police across the entire National Park Service.
Once the dispatcher has done that, it’s up to the ranger to input additional information. That includes, said Reynolds, whether the subject of the incident was adult or juvenile, male or female. It includes hair color, eye color, height, and weight — but, per these federal guidelines, not race.
“The only time the rangers would identify the race of a person,” said Reynolds, “would be a search and rescue, if we needed the public’s help finding someone.”
This means that statistics on race are nearly entirely absent from the National Park Service’s law enforcement records, which are accessible only by filing a Freedom of Information Act request.
Deputy Supt. Reynolds maintained that Seashore police could not record data on the race of the people they stop because “there’s not a box” for it on the form.
“Because it’s not there, we simply can’t look at our violation notices and pull the data about race,” she said. “I think, certainly, data is very important when you analyze it for any sort of issue. How many women do we stop compared to men? How many people do we stop that have blue eyes compared to brown eyes?”
The Independent this week requested information about an incident in the Seashore in which a resident photographed a group of rangers stopping, interrogating, and searching four visitors of color. (See photo above.) Neither Reynolds nor Acting Chief Ranger Ryan Wright responded to the request.
The bottom line is this: it’s impossible to gauge whether racial bias is a problem in policing in the national park because those data simply do not exist.
BLACK AND WHITE
TRURO — Last July, N.K., a University of Chicago professor here on vacation, took a right at the entrance to Corn Hill Beach in Truro, put her towel down, and got ready for a swim.
Not five minutes after she arrived, a woman came running down from her waterfront home and told N.K., who asked to be identified by her initials only, that she was trespassing on her property.
“There were hundreds of people all across the long pile of the beach, but I was not surprised that woman was singling me out and not any of the other people,” the professor said. “I was the only person of color on the beach.”
Though racially motivated incidents are uncommon, they do occur on the Outer Cape.
In 2019, Provincetown reported three hate crimes, which are defined as crimes that target protected groups such as minority races, religions, and sexual orientations. There were also two “hate incidents,” which involve the police but are not categorized as crimes.
Wellfleet, Truro, and Eastham had zero hate crimes, but Truro had one hate incident, the Corn Hill Beach case described above.
Whenever police respond to a complaint or incident, officers fill out a report in which they must choose “motivations” from an online drop-down menu, according to Truro Police Chief Jamie Calise.
One of the menu options is “race,” which is how race-related incidents are tracked. All four Outer Cape police depts. use the drop-down menu for filing reports, relying on an officer’s judgment to classify incidents as racially discriminatory or not.
Towns are not required to report hate- or bias-related incidents, and Truro, Wellfleet, and Eastham do not include them in their annual reports. Provincetown, which does, includes only the number of crimes and no other details.
In contrast, the city of Northampton keeps detailed public records of hate- and bias-related crimes that include an event summary, the bias involved, the victim’s race and ethnicity, and the outcome.
According to Truro’s Chief Calise, the Corn Hill Beach issue was resolved, and his officers gave the victim contact information for the U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division.
N.K. tells a different story. The professor eventually left the beach after a verbal altercation with the property owner. She later spoke to the police, who, she said, had “absolutely no interest in helping, and no interest in me filing an official report.” N.K. filed one anyway.
“I never heard a single word back, never heard an apology,” she said. “My impression was that the police were more interested in the [public relations] damage than they were in helping me.”
The professor wrote to the Independent, saying it was not the racist encounter that was most traumatizing but the lack of police interest and the silence of witnesses on the beach.
“We have heard those stories,” said Kate Epperly, vice chair of the Barnstable Human Rights Advisory Commission. “I have a Muslim friend who was refused service in Hyannis.”
Over the past seven years, Epperly’s commission has dealt with targeted hate crimes on the Cape. Epperly recalls Nazi signs found on Craigville Beach in Barnstable two years ago, and a swastika painted on a flag in front of a Falmouth synagogue.
The commission is primarily responsible for education and awareness about human rights violations. The responsibility for enforcement lies with the Mass. Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), which has the authority to file civil cases against people and organizations accused of discrimination.
“Our jurisdiction is discrimination at work, housing matters, places of public accommodation, access to education, credit, and banking,” said H Harrison, an MCAD spokesperson.
A public records request by the Independent revealed that, in 2019 and 2020, the commission received zero race-based complaints from anyone with an Outer Cape address. That doesn’t mean these kinds of incidents don’t happen, however.
N.K. said she did not pursue her case beyond the Truro police because she was upset that they “did not have anything set up locally to file a complaint or press charges, and it felt like passing on the local problem at hand.”
Also, not all race-based incidents on the Outer Cape have a clear victim or perpetrator, which can make filing a complaint problematic.
For example, Northampton resident Rick Haggerty was walking down Commercial Street in Provincetown on June 25 when he saw a sticker for the white supremacist group Patriot Front on the back of a road sign.
“We knew that had no place anywhere, especially in a place like [Provincetown],” Haggerty said.
He later found another sticker and reported both to the Provincetown police. Officers were dispatched to tear down any other stickers, Haggerty said.
The incident, though, was recorded as a “tagging” in the Provincetown police log and not a hate incident, according to Lt. Greg Hennick. The reason, he said, was that the stickers were on public, not private, property, and not directed at anyone in particular. Therefore, despite the obvious racial content, the police did not classify it as a hate incident.
To address discrimination issues, Wellfleet Police Chief Mike Hurley hopes to bring on board a full-time civil rights officer. Several other departments have requested a similar position, he said.
The state has also made a push to better equip local departments to deal with race and discrimination, including designating a full-time civil rights officer in every police dept., according to Hurley.
POLICING, PART 1
As conversations about racism and police brutality have spread to every corner of the country, including the Outer Cape, police data have been at the root of efforts to expose and end racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
Black residents make up less than three percent of the population in each of the four Outer Cape towns, while black people account for 8 to 12 percent of the arrests, according to police records for 2019 reviewed by the Independent.
While some would argue this may reflect the lived experience of people of color on the Outer Cape, local police chiefs say that comparing year-round population data with arrest rates doesn’t provide the full picture.
In 2019, 90.6 percent of Provincetown residents were white, and the corresponding numbers were 97.4 percent in Truro, 90.8 percent in Wellfleet, and 92.7 percent in Eastham, according to towncharts.com, which uses data from the U.S. Census and American Community Survey.
Black people account for a small fraction of the communities of color on the Cape but make up a disproportionate number of those arrested.
Less than 2 percent of the populations of Provincetown and Wellfleet are black, but 9 percent of the arrests “on view” and based on “incident and warrants” in 2019 in both towns were of black people.
In Truro, just 2.2 percent of the population is black, but 12 percent of those arrested in 2019 were black.
Eastham, with 2.6 percent of its population being black, had the lowest proportion of black people arrested on the Outer Cape: 8 percent — still more than three times their share of the town’s residents.
The Independent also reviewed police dept. traffic data. In 2019, black people accounted for 10 percent of Provincetown’s motor vehicle stops, and 7 percent of Wellfleet’s motor vehicle stops. Eight percent of motor vehicle citations given by the Eastham Police were to black people in 2019. In Truro, blacks received 11 percent of the motor vehicle citations for the period January 2019 through June 8, 2020.
The population data don’t account for nonresidents, which the chiefs in Truro, Eastham, and Wellfleet argued makes for an unfair comparison with overall arrest and traffic stop rates.
“I think to draw any conclusions from this type of data you would need to take into consideration our drastic increase in population during the ‘in season’ months,” Eastham Chief Adam Bohannon wrote in an email to the Independent. While his department works to ensure safety on Route 6, Bohannon wrote, officers “are encouraged to strictly enforce traffic laws while treating all individuals that they encounter with respect and fairness.”
Truro Police Chief Jamie Calise agreed, writing that “the limited statistical information based on permanent residency does not account for other aspects of our population, such as the significant number of people who visit or pass through the town each day.”
The Wellfleet police “will see 30-35 arrests in July along with 400 motor vehicle stops but in January see 3 arrests and 100 motor vehicle stops,” according to Chief Mike Hurley. “The point here is that the population we are encountering and dealing with during these months have a chance more than likely not being from Wellfleet.”
Wellfleet began collecting data on race voluntarily about 15 years ago. Officers don’t usually subjectively determine someone’s race; it’s usually recorded on government identification, Hurley said.
Hurley said he believes that the Outer Cape’s biggest challenge is socioeconomic, not racial: “I see people with millions of dollars, to people who are struggling to live here,” he said. “Some people are living in the woods in tents. That’s a bigger area we struggle with down here than other parts of Cape or country.”
Still, Hurley has felt the shock wave from George Floyd’s killing, telling the Independent, “What’s horrifying in this event — there are always bad apples. But the fact that three other police officers stood by.”
While he felt the arrest data could be misleading, Hurley said he didn’t have “any easy solutions on how you could accurately capture all these moving parts.”
Racial disparities in arrests prevail throughout the U.S. In 2016, 26 percent of Americans arrested were African Americans, double their percentage in the U.S. population.
Like many other citizens, Hurley said a change in policing is needed. “The system is broken, from mental health, to the courts, to training, to laws,” he said. “I think it’s really time for a serious discussion on the whole criminal justice system.”
‘That’s the Legacy I Have’
“When all of this exploded it wasn’t because it was new,” said Panchita Peterson, addressing the uprising that has followed the death of George Floyd.
Peterson, who lives in Wellfleet, has been addressing racism on Cape Cod for about 40 years. She describes herself as a “dark-skinned Afro-Caribbean woman.”
“I have three sons,” Peterson said. “It’s been a fear of those of us with black children, black men especially, that they really could become the focus [of police] at any given time and be shot.”
Twenty years ago, on Feb. 21, 2000, Wellfleet Police Chief Richard Rosenthal pulled his gun on Mamadou Sow, a young man from Senegal who was staying with Peterson.
Rosenthal told the Independent that a fellow officer called for backup after noticing a man acting “suspiciously” on the bike path. Rosenthal arrived on the scene and confronted Sow.
“This guy’s wearing earphones and I’m yelling for him to stop,” Rosenthal said. “He jams his hand in his pocket. When a police officer sees someone jam their hand in their pocket it’s a very dangerous moment. If I can’t see your hands, I don’t know what you got. So, I pulled my gun on him.” He maintained that his action was not racially motivated.
Peterson remembered the encounter as Sow, a student at Cape Cod Community College, told it to her. She said he was walking to catch the bus to Hyannis, as he did each day.
“Every day he would be in his Senegalese robe and prayer shawl around his head,” Peterson said. “You couldn’t miss this tall black man in a robe.
“He was walking on the bike path. They called in the force, and they met him at our street corner on Route 6. They put a gun on him and asked him what the hell he was doing here,” she said. “I wonder what I could have said to his mom had he been shot. That sticks in my mind.”
Her own son, she said, was followed one night and stopped by the police.
“They wanted to know why he was, where he was, and what he was,” she said.
“I know the police chief now,” she continued. “He’s always friendly. The truth is I’ve only had those two difficulties told to me by two of my children, but, in a way, I have been forewarned. That’s the legacy I have.”
Sophie Ruehr and K.C. Myers contributed reporting for this article.
Correction: Due to an editing error, this week’s print edition went to press with an error in the second paragraph. Black people account for 8 to 12 percent of the arrests, according to police records for 2019, not 7 to 12 percent.
Go to eastham-ma.gov/calendar-by-event-type/16 and click on the meeting agenda for information about how to view and take part remotely.
Thursday, June 4
- Zoning Board of Appeals, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, June 9
- Conservation Commission, 6 p.m.
Wednesday, June 10
- Board of Cemetery Commissioners, 10 a.m.
- Finance Committee, 5 p.m.
As of June 1, the number of active Covid-19 cases in Eastham was 10.
Chief Expresses Sympathy, Promises Respect
In a Facebook post, Police Chief Adam Bohannon offered his prayers “for peace and justice — for George Floyd, his family, friends, and the entire city of Minneapolis.” He wrote that the “actions of several Minneapolis police officers,” which led to Floyd’s death, “have again tarnished the badge that most police officers work so hard to hold to a high standard.” Bohannon promised that his department “is committed to treating everyone, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or any other background, with the utmost respect, fairness and civility.”
Big Turnout for Uncontested Election
Although there are no races for offices at the June 23 town election, more than 443 applications for mail-in ballots have been returned to the town clerk. “I think we’re going to have the highest turnout ever for an uncontested election,” select board chair Eckman said Monday. The polls will be open for in-person voting on June 23, but the town is encouraging citizens to cast their ballots via mail.
With planning board chairman Art Autorino joining the select board after the June 23 election, Craig Nightingale agreed to serve an additional special term. Former chairman Dan Coppelman also said yes to a return engagement. Both were appointed to three-year terms Monday. William Craig, who previously served on the South Burlington, Vt., planning commission, was named an alternate.
With the resignation of David Schropfer, the town’s member of the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority Advisory Board, the select board appointed Roz Diamond to the post. Her experience includes work for the New York City Dept. of Transportation and New Jersey Transit’s planning department. —Ed Maroney
Select Board Takes Interest in Teardowns
Prior to the planning board’s May 20 review of three teardown and rebuild projects, select board member Jamie Rivers read a statement from her board about the demolition of old houses, construction of larger houses and merging of lots. “It is the belief of the select board that several of these proposed building projects and projects in the not distant past do not line up with the content of the strategic plan,” Rivers said.
The town’s five-year strategic plan includes efforts to offer financially attainable housing for people of all ages, supporting development that is appropriately located and scaled, and to improve conditions of existing properties that are deteriorating.
“When we tear down affordable homes on sensible sized lots and approve merging of properties to build homes that are not in line with the current community character, we restrict access and affordability of housing,” Rivers said.
Planning board chair Art Autorino said “Unless you are going to come up with a bylaw that limits the size of the building you can put on a piece of property —it’s difficult for us to say, ‘That house is too big.’ ” —Ryan Fitzgerald
Local police officers and first responders are doing what they can to maintain their own health while they continue working to keep the public safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
The most fundamental change they’ve put in place is social distancing — to the degree they can. Police and fire stations remain open, but the community has been instructed not to enter the buildings except for emergencies. Any business that can be handled over the phone is done that way now. If officers can talk to people outside the station or outside homes at an appropriate distance, they are doing so.
“Of course, if there’s an emergency people can come in — we’re never going to not carry out our duties,” Eastham Police Chief Adam Bohannon said. “But the fewer people to come in and out of the building the better.”
Truro Police Chief Jamie Calise agreed, adding, by email, that the department has placed some restrictions on the ways officers work in the building to promote safer interaction. Across the board, police cruisers and ambulances are being wiped down regularly and department buildings are also being cleaned.
Wellfleet Police Chief Mike Hurley said one thing that’s particularly difficult about social distancing is that it results in a loss of community policing. “We’re not out in the community where we’re typically visiting schools and coffee shops,” Hurley said. “That has had a huge impact.”
As for limiting officers’ exposure to people who may have Covid-19, new procedures include dispatchers asking more virus-related questions when answering emergency calls. If the caller is experiencing virus-related symptoms, has traveled recently, or has been in recent contact with someone who is sick or has been diagnosed with the virus, “then we know it’s a possible case and we’re making sure we have proper protective gear on,” Eastham Fire Chief Kent Farrenkopf explained.
While officers and EMTs are equipped with protective gear, one strategy for preserving it is to have one person wearing full protective gear (gloves, mask, and gown) respond first to determine whether additional EMTs or police officers are needed or if they can safely stand by outside.
Stocks of protective gear vary. In Eastham, Bohannon said all police officers are equipped with gloves, glasses, and gowns. Both Bohannon and Wellfleet Chief Hurley said they are not requiring officers to wear protective gear on all calls they respond to but only when dealing with someone who is sick.
Fire Chief Farrenkopf said his department has enough protective gear to last another couple of weeks. He is concerned, though, because additional gear has been back-ordered for more than a month. Meanwhile, in Truro, Chief Calise said his department has not had a shortage of protective gear yet.
Because first responders work closely with the public and with each other, they are especially aware of the importance of keeping the virus from sweeping through their departments.
There is a “continuity of operations” plan in the event that multiple staff members test positive for the virus. In that case, the affected department could seek mutual aid from surrounding towns, state police, National Park police, or, in an extreme situation, the National Guard.
“There’s stress,” said Hurley, because, like everyone else in the community, the officers and EMTs have families they return home to at the end of the day.
Provincetown Police Chief Jim Golden did not respond to a phone call or email for this story.
Last year, 600 to 700 calls to the Wellfleet Police Dept. resulted in police reports. Of those, half involved mental health or substance abuse issues.
Providing crisis intervention is now something officers prepare for, and in Truro, Wellfleet, and Eastham, they look to the community resource navigator program to provide follow up. (Provincetown no longer participates in the program, choosing to focus on housing and homelessness.) The navigator program appears to be helping, with the percentage of clients judged to be at high risk going down in the last quarter.
Behind the large number of calls, at least in part, is a cultural shift, said Wellfleet Police Chief Michael Hurley, who joined the force 25 years ago. “If you were worried about someone 10 or 15 years ago, you wouldn’t call us to check on them,” Hurley said. “Today, no one hesitates to do it.”
The opioid epidemic and climbing suicide rates have also likely upped the number of calls. In 2016, 78 people in Barnstable County died from opioid overdoses, compared to 12 in 2000. From 2000 to 2016, 512 people died from opioid-related overdoses. The age-adjusted suicide rate on the Cape and Islands doubled from 2000 to 2011, from 6.2 per 100,000 to 12.1 per 100,000, and according to the suicide awareness group SharedKindness, the county’s suicide rate is more than twice the state’s overall.
Providing support to people suffering from mental health crises is now central to police work. “As a department, we’re dealing with it on a daily basis,” Hurley said.
Eastham Officer Josh Adams said that although police are often the first to respond to mental health or substance abuse-related situations, until recently, they were not trained in how to deal with them. “We knew the law and made sure the law was met,” Adams said. “We were never trained as social workers, and we didn’t know what resources were out there.”
Police officers have long conducted “well-being checks” after receiving calls from people concerned about themselves or about a friend or loved one. These days, however, they’re trained in crisis intervention. “Our new guys know how to handle themselves differently,” Adams said. “They’re trained differently — to be less robotic, softer.”
Since July 2017, when Eastham, Wellfleet, and Truro agreed to pool their resources, police in the three towns have relied on community resource navigators to provide follow up. Each town pays Outer Cape Health Services (OCHS) $25,000 annually to maintain the program.
After receiving a call for help, officers can refer the person in need to the navigators — social workers who visit that person in the days following the well-being check.
“We see most folks at home, regardless of insurance,” said Brianne Smith, who runs the program along with Paula Erickson. Meeting people at home offsets barriers, like transportation or the formal setting of an office, which Smith said might discourage people from getting support.
After evaluating the client’s needs, a navigator refers him or her to resources and programs that might help address specific concerns. The navigators meet regularly with Cape Cod Hospital, Bay Cove, and first responders. They also participate in police officers’ crisis intervention trainings and meet with guidance counselors at Nauset middle and high schools.
Police in Wellfleet, Eastham, and Truro say that the navigator program is helping.
Truro Officer Tom Roda worked as an emergency medic for years before joining the force. “You’re bringing the care to them, rather than saying, ‘Hey, there’s this program, if you go to this place, if you call this number….’ ” Roda said. “Almost everyone I’ve spoken with has agreed to meet with them.” He thought the likelihood of follow up with the navigators is high and added that the number of repeat calls coming in about the same individual is going down.
According to its most recent quarterly report, the navigator program received 61 total referrals from the three towns in the last quarter (October to December 2019), up from 43 in the previous quarter. The table below shows which services navigators most frequently referred their clients to over the past two quarters across all three towns:
|Community involvement*||40 %|
|Mental health||30 %|
|Substance abuse||19 %|
|Family / social relationships||18 %|
*The navigators define “community involvement” as services geared toward decreasing isolation.
The navigators track their clients’ progress, and their numbers confirm that the program is working. The percentage of clients deemed “high risk” has dropped from 49.1 to 27.3, while the number of “medium risk” and “low risk” clients has increased. These numbers reflect an assessment of the same people who regularly engaged with the program over a three-month period.
Still, the number of calls coming is high, from a first responder’s point of view. “Some days, it feels like Wellfleet could have its own navigator,” Hurley said.
“It’s unclear if it’s solving the problem,” Hurley added, because the program does not address the root causes of mental illness and substance use disorder.
OCHS has secured funding for a substance use disorder recovery coach, in the hopes that it will lighten the burden on navigators and nurses and will lead to a higher rate of successful recovery. They are currently searching for a suitable candidate.
To close more loops, the navigator program helped form Outer Cape Community Solutions, a group composed of police officers, navigators, and other organizations involved in mental illness and substance use disorder. The group meets monthly.
“It’s really opened up lines of communication,” Adams said. Hurley, too, said collaboration between various groups is cause for optimism. Ensuring that people know about the program’s existence is also important, he said. “It’s working. But there are still steps we can take.”
Navigators’ Drop-in Office Hours
Tuesdays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Wellfleet Police Dept.
Wednesdays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Truro Council on Aging
Thursdays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Eastham Public Library, except second Thursday of the month at the Children’s Place in Eastham.
WELLFLEET — Barbara Jacobs is demanding a refund of $256 after members of the Wellfleet Fire Dept. ordered Silver Cloud Towing to take away her disabled car rather than the AAA-authorized towing service she had arranged.
Chief Richard Pauley has refused her written request, saying the tow had to be done quickly because her car, which had sprung a gas leak, presented a public safety hazard.
“It’s not about the money,” said Jacobs, who lives in Provincetown and Arvada, Colo. “It’s about the way I was treated.”
On July 28, a Sunday, Jacobs went to the Wellfleet Flea Market and was driving her 2011 Kia Soul home on Route 6 when other motorists began signaling her to pull over. She pulled into the plaza that includes the Dunkin’ doughnuts shop, where she discovered gas pouring from her car.
She dialed 911. A call firefighter, later identified as Lt. William Grozier, arrived in his business vehicle and Lt. Mary Lou Wood came in a fire truck.
The car could not be driven, so Grozier suggested that Jacobs call AAA, Jacobs said. After explaining her predicament, the AAA dispatcher told her someone was on the way, and that she could get a ride in the tow truck. It would take her to her mechanic in Provincetown. The total charge would be $44, Jacobs said, and they would be there within an hour.
Her plan quickly unraveled, however, when Wood informed her that Silver Cloud Towing had been called and that she would not be allowed to ride in the tow truck. Moreover, the driver would be taking her car to Orleans, not Provincetown, Jacobs said.
When Silver Cloud arrived the driver loaded her car onto the tow truck “over my objections,” Jacobs said. Jacobs argued with the firefighters and driver for about 20 minutes. To prevent the tow truck from leaving she stood in front of it “with my arms raised like I was at Tiananmen Square,” Jacobs told the Independent.
“I asked why the fire people had made other arrangements without asking or telling me after I’d made the arrangements they had suggested,” she wrote in her letter to Pauley. “The only answer was Silver Cloud could come faster.”
Finally the firefighters called the police, she said.
Police Chief Ronald Fisette said Det. Geraldine LaPense was able to smooth things over a bit by arranging for the Silver Cloud driver to take Jacobs to Provincetown rather than Orleans. The charge would be $295 payable in cash up front. Jacobs also incurred a $5 ATM fee getting the cash.
On July 30 Jacobs wrote to Pauley, explaining what happened and asking for a refund of the tow charge minus the $44. She also emailed a copy to the Wellfleet Select Board. She got no response from anyone, she said.
Pauley told the Independent that he never received her letter. As he recalled the incident, gas was pouring out of her car to the point where “we were using buckets.” Gas leaks are extremely serious and only tow companies that have certain equipment are qualified to tow the vehicle, Pauley said. Also it had to be done quickly rather than wait for AAA which can take more than an hour to arrive in July.
But Jacobs said the gas had fully leaked out by the time the firefighters arrived. (She said her tank had ruptured and needed to be replaced, a $2,000 repair.) The firefighters never used buckets but they did put sand on the spilled gas, Jacobs added. Furthermore, she asked, why would Grozier advise her to call AAA in the first place if this were such an emergency?
Jacobs asked if Silver Cloud enjoyed a preferential relationship with Wellfleet emergency services.
There are no tow contracts with local police, explained Fisette. But Silver Cloud and the Tinknocker are both on the Wellfleet Police Dept.’s tow list. This is not a written contract but a verbal agreement, which specifies that these two companies will be called to tow disabled or impounded vehicles from crash scenes or following arrests, said Fisette. That is how it works with most Cape tows, claimed Rich Quirk, the manager of Silver Cloud.
If a car is not a safety hazard as the result of a breakdown, owners can make their own arrangements, Fisette said.
Quirk said they request cash up front because people are not usually happy to have their cars towed and have written bad checks and disputed credit card charges.
As for refusing to take Jacobs to Provincetown, Quirk said that’s not the way they operate.
“Not being there that day I’m not sure what happened,” Quirk said. “But we always try to work with people.”
Once they are called, however, they need to be compensated, he added.
Pauley said he empathizes with Jacobs but “we just follow a protocol … The town of Wellfleet won’t reimburse her for her towing costs.”
Fisette offered to write her a letter, which she can send to AAA and perhaps get the $44 reimbursed.
“It’s very disillusioning,” said Jacobs. “I know they [the fire dept.] do good work. But instead of being helpful they were the opposite.”
TRURO — Town Manager Rae Ann Palmer has announced she will retire on June 30, 2020 after five years as the town’s municipal chief.
“It’s time,” she said on Tuesday. “It’s been a great five years. I feel we’ve done a lot of great work together.”
Palmer, who lives in Eastham, told her department heads on Friday she would not seek to renew her contract, which is up in June 2020.
Creating a cohesive team that works well together has been her proudest accomplishment, she said. But it has not been easy keeping all the town jobs filled. If the current candidate for council on aging director accepts the town’s offer, it will be one of the rare times every department head chair has been occupied, Palmer said.
“It’s really hard to hire people out here,” she said.
Still, she wrote in her letter to staff, “The town is filled with dedicated public servants who are committed to their jobs and who care about the community they serve. It has been one of the greatest privileges of my career to lead this team, and I will truly miss the staff more than anything.”
Palmer, who worked for the city of Hartford, Conn. for 22 years, was also the assistant town manager of Wethersfield, Conn., a suburb of Hartford, for another 10 years. She accepted the job of Truro town administrator in 2014. The charter commission then changed her title to town manager, giving her supervisory power over the police and fire chiefs, formerly the domain of the select board.
Palmer, whose base pay is about $130,000 plus a housing allowance, faced one extreme challenge during her tenure.
In May 2018, she sought and was granted a harassment prevention order against former Fire Chief Brian Davis after he was overheard saying she should be shot, according to court documents. Issued by Judge Toby S. Mooney of Orleans District Court, the order expired in June of this year and Palmer declined to seek a continuance.
A harassment prevention order differs from a restraining order in that it can be taken out against a person who is not a domestic or intimate partner.
According to court documents obtained by the Independent, when the Truro police served the order on Davis, they confiscated a number of weapons and ammunition from him, and secured them at the Truro Police Dept. This week, Truro Police Chief Jamie Calise would not say how many or what types of weapons had been confiscated from Davis, or who now held possession of those firearms. Calise said he needed to ask for legal advice before releasing such details.
Court documents state that Palmer requested the harassment prevention order following threatening statements Davis allegedly made on May 8, 2018 about her as well as about Fire Chief Timothy Collins and Collins’s girlfriend. During a discussion among several people in the Truro Dept. of Public Works break room, Davis allegedly said, “Someone should shoot [Palmer] in the head.” Davis then went on to make a similar statement about Collins, and to suggest a sexual attack on Collins’s girlfriend, according to a police narrative written by Det. Steven Raneo.
Davis was in the DPW building on that day in 2018 although he had retired from the fire department in 2015. He had reached the mandatory retirement age of 65, said Chief Collins on Monday.
“As the town manager I have a responsibility to act to protect staff,” Palmer wrote in an affidavit seeking the harassment prevention order. “I fear that this anger is escalating.”
It was not the first threatening statement Davis allegedly uttered. According to her affidavit, sometime in the week of April 23, 2018, he told DPW Director Jarrod Cabral that he had put a curse on Rex Peterson, Truro’s deceased town administrator, and that Palmer “should be dead.”
Davis allegedly made similar remarks directly to Palmer in 2014 when she first became town administrator, and again in January 2018, when he stopped by her office, she wrote.
Palmer would not comment on this matter. Davis, through his attorney, Matthew Kelley of Harwich, also declined to talk.
Select board member Robert Weinstein praised Palmer’s leadership and called her a friend.
“My take is she has brought a level of professionalism that the town sorely needed,” he said.
From dealing with sharks to affordable housing, “She’s done a lot; she will be hard to replace,” he said.
Editor’s note: Because of a reporting error, the print edition of this article published on Oct. 24 erroneously stated that Rae Ann Palmer was given the power to hire the police and fire chiefs when she became town manager. She has supervisory, not hiring, authority over the two chiefs.