Hallowell Ward 2 Councilor Michael Frett, right, and Councilor-at-Large George D. Lapointe speak during a City Council retreat Jan. 4 at Maple Hill Farm Bed & Breakfast Inn and Conference Center in Hallowell. On Monday, Frett put forth a motion that was unanimously approved for the city’s protection committee to discuss the Police Department’s guidelines for the use of restraint with Police Chief Scott MacMaster.

HALLOWELL — City officials say they plan to look into the Hallowell Police Department’s guidelines, including those related to sensitivity training and the use of restraint.

Before bringing up the unanimously passed motion at Monday night’s City Council meeting, Councilor Michael Frett spoke of the need for local governments to confront “inappropriate police conduct.”

“I think by now, most people understand this a national issue that needs to be confronted on local levels,” Frett said. “The responsibility for police conduct begins with the municipality or the institution that authorizes them.”

Protests throughout the state, nation and world have included calls for profound change to law enforcement after George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died May 25 when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on the back of his neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was in custody.

A peaceful protest in Augusta on Sunday drew more than 1,000 people.

Frett’s motion included a request that the city’s protection committee, which works closely with the Police Department, sit down with Police Chief Scott MacMaster to discuss the department’s guidelines.

Frett said he saw nothing “amiss” with how Hallowell police officers perform their jobs. He called his motion “preemptive.”

“I think this would benefit us all,” he said, “both as councilors and as citizens of the city.”

On Tuesday, Frett said he has had only positive experiences with Hallowell police officers, adding they have always been professional.

He said he suggested the topic appear on the agenda Monday “not because I had a bone to pick,” but as an obligation to the police and community to know what guidelines are in place.

Frett said he was opposed to police using chokeholds when apprehending suspects, noting his opinion is based on his having studied judo. He said “there has almost never been a situation” where an officer used a chokehold without another officer or two being present, which shows an absence of training for the officers.

“Not only was I devastated in how easy it was to do,” Frett said. “I also know how easily (chokeholds) can create severe injury for people.”

The Hallowell Police Department’s Situational Use of Force policy uses the term “compliance techniques” to describe “the methods of arrest, restraint and control that include manipulation of joints, pressure point applications and take-down techniques to control an aggressive offender.” It does not specifically mention chokeholds.

That policy was adopted in November 2019, according to the document.

A compliance technique is described in a section mentioning situational uses of force as “actual, physical bodily contact with a subject and forcibly controlling a subject until resistance is overcome.  This includes control and defensive tactics, striking a subject with your body, using (pepper) spray, using electronic control devices or taking a subject to the ground.” Chokeholds are not mentioned in the document.

Councilor Diano Circo, chairperson of the City Council’s protection committee, said there are discrepancies in the use-of-restraint guidelines followed by police departments, adding the practices and protocols that work for Hallowell likely differ from those in other communities. He said he would like to see studies done about the use of restraint. Frett, a lawyer and former prosecutor, said those studies were available.

MacMaster was not available for comment Tuesday.

 

IMPLICIT BIAS TRAINING

In a subsequent motion that also passed unanimously, councilors asked the City Council’s personnel and policy committee to look into critical incident stress management training and implicit bias training for city officials and other members of the municipal staff.

“Implicit bias” refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner, according to the Ohio State University Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity,

Councilor-at-Large Maureen Aucoin speaks Jan. 4 during a Hallowell City Council retreat at Maple Hill Farm Bed & Breakfast Inn and Conference Center in Hallowell.

Councilor Maureen Aucoin said she “highly recommended” implicit bias training for members of the city’s Emergency Operations Center staff.

In April, Aucoin criticized the composition of that staff, which includes several city department leads, all of whom are white men. She said this “excluded all diversity,” and “disregards the values” held by many in Hallowell.

“I would highly recommend that the emergency operations team attend some sort of implicit bias (training),” Aucoin said Monday, “because of all the committees we have, that one is most likely to be affected by that.”

The staff at the Emergency Operations Center includes City Manager Nate Rudy, Mayor Mark Walker, Council President George Lapointe, Protection Committee Chairperson Diano Circo, Board of Health Representative Scott Schiff-Slater, Fire Chief Jim Owens, Assistant Emergency Management Director Roy Girard, Assistant Fire Chief Aaron Sellwood, Finance Manager and City Treasurer Dawna Myrick, Public Works Foreman Chris Buck and Police Chief Scott MacMaster.

Rudy said critical incident stress management training could help people work through traumatic events they encounter on the job.

Councilor Patrick Wynne, a paramedic, said he has gone through the training, and “got a whole lot out of it.”

Rudy said Hallowell might look to team with other organizations to provide critical incident stress management training. He added the city had already been looking into such training before it was discussed Monday night.

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