Sunday January 13, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- Inspired by a letter to the editor praising a helpful response by police officers, the city’s Police Advisory Committee decided to pass its own similar comments on to Chief Michael J. Wynn.

Committee member Phyllis Smith says she would like to find a way to recognize officers when such information comes to the attention of the advisory group. In the Dec. 17 letter to The Berkshire Eagle, a writer described being the victim of a purse snatching and how officers assisted her.

"It is just nice to read something positive like this," Smith said. "This was not a ‘once in a blue moon’ thing, either -- this happens all the time."

Some committee members were reluctant to single out some officers because most incidents of laudable conduct would not become known to the committee.

After some debate, it was resolved to write a letter to Wynn citing the incident without naming the officers. Members indicated at their meeting Monday that they would consider issuing commendation letters on a regular basis.

"Anything we can do to recognize the work they do and the risks they face is warranted," Smith said.

The Police Advisory Comm-ittee was reconstituted last year and has been meeting monthly with the chief and other officers and law enforcement officials to keep abreast of policing issues and provide a regular forum for citizen input and community outreach.

The committee also is close to finishing a letter and photo package it plans to send to state and federal legislators and other officials urging the pursuit of funding for a new police facility in Pittsfield.

Wynn has told advisory committee members that there currently are no obvious funding sources, such as federal economic stimulus money available in recent years for fire facilities. He said attempts were made to add language allowing funding for police stations, but that measure has not advanced out of legislative committee.

The chief has been given approval by the mayor’s office to step up efforts to move a long-proposed new police station ahead.

The effort will involve political advocacy with legislators, Wynn said, acknowledging that the project will take years.

Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi this week made the case for replacing the Allen Street station, constructed in 1939, during a visit by new U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. She said she would research funding options for such a project.

In a related issue, the mayor sent to the City Council on Tuesday a request to add four more positions to the seven-member police advisory group, bringing the total to 11. The council referred the request to committee.