PITTSFIELD — Pittsfield’s police chief will help shape state policy on certifying police officers in Massachusetts, a role created through reform that became law in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Michael J. Wynn is one of three people named to the new nine-member Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission by Gov. Charlie Baker. Wynn, the city’s chief since 2007, also will help the panel probe reports of police misconduct and perform a host of oversight duties, according to a statement Thursday night from Baker’s office.
The new law empowered the governor to select one sitting police chief for the panel — and Baker chose Pittsfield’s top cop. Baker called his three selections part of “an important step to improve public safety and increase trust between members of law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
The crux of the commission’s mission, Wynn told The Eagle on Friday, is to create a system for certifying new officers to serve on Massachusetts police forces, recertifying existing officers and decertifying officers for misconduct. Massachusetts is one of handful of states without a certification system, which, Wynn said, can hamstring the police hiring process.
Currently, police departments across the commonwealth can search a national database to determine whether a candidate they are considering hiring was decertified in another state but not in Massachusetts.
“If we’re doing a background check on the candidate for a position, we can go to a national database, and we can find out if the candidate has lost their certification in another state,” he said. “But, we can’t find out if they got disciplined or terminated from another Massachusetts department. There’s no database that includes that information. So, if somebody is terminated for misconduct, or they resigned one step ahead of being terminated for misconduct, we want to know that when they’re in our candidate pool, and up until we create that process, that hadn’t been possible in the commonwealth.”
Wynn said he brings a unique perspective to the commission as chief of a Western Massachusetts community, understanding, for example, the need to ensure that there are appropriate training resources for departments that rely on part-time officers, common in smaller communities in the Berkshires and Western Massachusetts.
The Pittsfield Police Department, he said, also has a “history here of aggressively investigating allegations of misconduct and taking significant action” when claims are substantiated.
Wynn has served as an instructor for a number of police training programs, including the Justice System Training and Research Institute at Roger Williams University and the Municipal Police Training Committee.
Attorney General Maura Healey selected three other appointees. And together, the two officials picked three more. Each of the officials was required by the new law, signed by Baker in December, to select people from specific professions and experiences.
Baker also named retired Judge Margaret R. Hinkle, who served with the Superior Court from 1993 to 2011, and Charlene D. Luma, a licensed social worker who has worked since 2019 as chief of the Victim Witness Assistance Program for the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office.
Hinkle will serve as chairwoman of the commission.
Healey selected Lawrence “Larry” Calderone, chair and president of the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Policy Group and president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association; Larry Ellison, a detective with the Boston Police Department’s School Unit; and Marsha V. Kazarosian, a trial attorney who has practiced in Massachusetts since 1982.
“Each of these appointees brings unique expertise and experience to this commission as we institute meaningful reform in our state and local law enforcement departments,” Healey said in a statement Thursday. “This new commission will help enhance accountability and transparency, build public trust, bolster public safety, and provide enhanced training, guidance and support to police officers across our state.”
Together, Baker and Healey selected these additional commission members: Hanya H. Bluestone, a licensed psychologist who has served since 2016 as CEO of Labyrinth Psychological Services in Holden; Clementina M. Chéry, an ordained senior chaplain and co-founder and CEO of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in Boston; and Kimberly P. West, a partner with the Ashcroft Law Firm in Boston.
Wynn is a former patrol officer, shift supervisor and commander and administrative captain of the department, according to a biography provided by the governor’s office. He is a Williams College graduate and holds a master’s degree in criminal justice.
Wynn has served as an instructor in various police training programs and, from 2003 to 2004, was a fellow with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Leadership Development Unit. Last year, Wynn joined the National Leadership Council of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a nonprofit that works to reduce crime and help children succeed.
Wynn said the commission’s meeting schedule hasn’t been set quite yet. He lauded his colleagues on the commission, and said he looks forward to getting to work.
“It’s a great collection of commissioners, and I think we’re going to make some positive changes in the commonwealth,” Wynn said.