STOCKBRIDGE -- Among the key goals highlighted by the town's new police chief is to win certification from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission (formerly a state agency but now a private, nonprofit organization) as the first step to formal accreditation.
For all officers, education and specialized training such as criminal investigation, crime-scene preservation and accident reconstruction is planned.
"The accreditation instills a lot of different procedures," said Chief Robert M. Eaton, Jr., "with a little more accountability, professionalism, it ramps it up a notch."
The process includes self-assessment by the chief -- "where we are with our policies and which policies and procedures need to be updated or adopted." Assessors from the commission will examine the department's compliance and make recommendations for any needed adjustments. Eaton aims for "an aggressive timeline" to gain certification in less than two years.
Eaton also aims to position the town's department as a "hub" for collaboration with the county's other agencies to work together toward accreditation. He intends to work closely with the Berkshire County Chiefs of Police Association and provide training facilities for other departments at the Town Offices.
Another goal is closer involvement with the Berkshire Hills Regional School District, specifically for emergency operations that include planning and drilling for any unusual occurrences. He wants to begin a Police Explorer program for young people, hold self-defense classes for women, and organize citizens' police academies for high-schoolers and adults.
Asked about the epidemic of heroin and opiod prescription-drug abuse sweeping the Berkshires and other rural areas of the Northeast, Eaton acknowledged that "drugs are everywhere, in every community" although drug arrests are few and far between in this town.
Educational programs for youth, including online resources for at-risk young people and their parents, are on the agenda, he said. Collaboration with the county's other police chiefs and with the Berkshire County Drug Task Force led by state police investigators assigned to the District Attorney's Office are high priorities, he added.
"It's a combination, not just one thing -- you have education, enforcement and treatment," he explained. "Sometimes, if we can help people solve some of their own problems, in the long run, they're better off if they become part of the solution."