In January of 2015, Beacon Mayor Randy Casale invited government and civic leaders to discuss growing tensions between police and communities around the country and to help Beacon's various groups set a course of improvement with one another. Following the meeting, "Beacon Speaks Out" (or BSO) was formed by Brooke Simmons of I Am Beacon and Rabbi Brent Spodek of Beacon Hebrew Alliance and moderator of Better Together, The Beacon Interfaith Clergy Group. The first meeting was held in May of that year. Participants developed eight initiatives that the Beacon Police Department intended to work on. The BSO would set follow-up meetings to discuss progress; the next one was planned for February 2016.
"Beacon Speaks Out" returns tonight, Wednesday, October 18, 2017, at The Telephone Building from 7 to 8 pm for a third meeting that is open to the public. Participants will include citizens, Mayor Randy Casale, City Administrator Anthony Ruggiero, and city Police Chief Douglas Solomon. The meeting will cover two of the eight initiatives conceived at the first meeting (specifically the fourth and seventh). All initiatives are posted below.
"We’d like for the police to be better equipped to deal with Beacon’s diverse populations."
"We’d like data on crimes, arrests, and convictions to be publicized, as well as police policies and procedures."
In the years since the original meeting, improvements have been made that have resulted in satisfaction on both sides - the Police Department and the community. Thanks to a grant, body cameras were given to police officers to be used with the cameras already on police vehicles, which according to an article in the Highlands Current, helped police prove how situations unfolded when challenged. Training for crisis intervention and mediation was increased, as well as hiring to strengthen and diversify the police force. Though for hiring, Chief Solomon encourages those who are students now to get interested in pursuing civil service careers, as he reports a challenge in finding recruits from minority populations.
The agenda is as follows:
Publicizing Police Procedures & Policies
Quality of Life Issues (Defined)
• Ignoring rules of the road
• Driving around police and other caution barriers
• Driving the wrong way down one-way streets
• Speeding down side streets
• Illegal parking
• Skateboarding on streets and sidewalks
• Bicycling on sidewalks
• Ignoring pedestrians in crosswalks
• Pedestrians who aggressively cross into traffic
• Loud Noise
• Vandalism to public and private property
• Drug dealing
• Drug using
The Eight Initiatives of "Beacon Speaks Out"
1. We’d like the police/community relationship to move from a place of intimidation, suspicion, and superiority to a place of kindness, calm, and respect.
2. We’d like for the police to develop positive relations with the youth of Beacon.
3. We’d like for the police to have more face-to-face contact with the community.
Adopt Best Practices to Improve Community Safety
4. We’d like for the police to be better equipped to deal with Beacon’s diverse populations.
5. We’d like a more diverse police force.
6. We’d like for the police to work together with the community to develop a progressive strategy for dealing with Beacon’s drug problem, especially heroin.
Strengthen and Expand Community Communication
7. We’d like data on crimes, arrests, and convictions to be publicized, as well as police policies and procedures.
8. We’d like the Human Relations Committee to be publicized and strengthened.