Are you proud of your police force?

Stoughton, Massachusetts lost another police chief. Hopefully this one is going to a better place.

Sometimes a town gets the police force it wants. Some towns want to raise revenue or punish commuter traffic. My city’s chief was forced out after trying to impose ticket quotas. Stoughton wants a dirty police force.

Trouble came to light more than a decade ago when selectmen removed a bad chief. In response to that decision town voters forced a recall election and installed new board that reinstated the chief.

The election was a referendum on police corruption, and corruption won.

That chief did lose his job in the end. A sergeant got two and a half years in prison for attempted extortion. The chief was convicted as an accessory and sentenced to probation. (First he was awarded half a million dollars of paid vacation; I’ve never been one to say crime doesn’t pay.)

And then there was the theft and fencing ring, as far as I can tell unrelated to extortion.

And then there was obstruction of justice. It was at least partly related to the fencing operation, but several officers were implicated and there could have been other underlying crimes.

And somebody didn’t know the rule, don’t have an affair with a cop.

There were the proverbial few good apples in the barrel. They got punished, of course. Cops don’t turn in other cops, or friends of local politicians, if they know what’s good for them. One detective won a whistleblower lawsuit. Other officers lost.

So the town brought in a new chief with a vision of a force people could be proud of. He was the rare officer who didn’t “forget” details when he had to testify against a drunk-driving judge.

Some people think he did a good job.

How do you measure improvement? The facts were accreditation, training, and use of Narcan. (That’s a drug to counter opiate overdose; New England bypassed meth and picked opiates as the drug of choice.) That doesn’t tell me if it’s safe to drive through or if it’s safe to speak out against a local businessman. I wish we could have a registry of bad departments. We have one for speed traps, but it’s a lot harder to create one for bad cops.

At least I have nothing negative to say.

And now the chief is being forced out due to town politics, which as I already said back corruption.

Maybe the town will continue to get the police force it deserves.

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