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HOLYOKE — A progress report of implemented recommendations from the audit of the Holyoke Police Department a year ago was presented by the department to the Public Safety Committee on Feb. 26.

In late 2022, the city contracted with Municipal Resources, Inc., or MRI, to conduct a department-wide audit of the Holyoke Police Department which concluded with a final report presented to the City Council in March of 2023.

The audit concluded with a series of recommendations to help the city improve the department and offer services the community expects and desires. MRI identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the department through its audit and met with staff members of all ranks within the agency as well as conducted surveys to evaluate numerous aspects of the department.

A comparative analysis was done comparing Holyoke to departments at other communities that are similarly situated before receiving the full audit and recommendations.

Police Chief David Pratt shared where the department is at in implementing the recommendations in the report to the committee. Pratt started an overview of where things are at and explained the department has compiled a living document to track their progress.

Pratt explained they wanted to develop a report that could “roll with the times” and achieve more of the outcomes from the audit. The section is broken down into three color coded sections. Green for things accomplished, yellow for ongoing work and red for longer term work to come down the line.
Included with each item in the document is a brief explanation of the funding source for each item. Pratt added the department is planning on posting the document online for the public to be able to check into.

“Some things from the report were minimal in costs and just a matter of getting some things done at a minimal cost and we tried to knock those out,” Pratt said. “I just felt the visual of green being we’ve done it, yellow we are working on it, and red we will get there, with the goal obviously to move the red into yellow and the yellow into green. And I felt that this report would help summarize the audit and show what we need to do to keep moving forward.”

City Councilor at-Large Israel Rivera asked if Pratt could adjust the document to reflect which portion of the MRI audit is being referred to with a task listed for the sake of transparency with the public. Specifically, Rivera asked Pratt if he could explain for example the field training program listed in yellow of the document.

Pratt said it was still in yellow as their program was still being improved on as they continue to move forward in changing some of their training. He added the ultimate goal is to establish an accredited training program and to continue to improve on that, even with the city already having a field training program operating.

“Before the audit we didn’t do the field training when they came out of the academy, we did it when they were reserves and we had reserve officers prior to the reform bill,” Pratt said. “Right when the audit came was when they saw that we didn’t have, in their eyes, a filed training program. We actually had not had a class graduate to put through a field training program, so it was a little off base when they said we didn’t have a program. We had a program, but we did it at a different level when the officers were with us.”

Pratt said since that time, the next graduating class after was put through the new program when they come out of the academy as opposed to prior.

Rivera also said the department’s update lacked information regarding organizational structure and how that would be addressed, including working toward defining roles with regard to civilian and police.

“That way we can have more police officers on the streets and help mitigate some of the overtime costs versus having them in the building doing administrative work, where we can have civilians doing some of this work,” Rivera explained.

Pratt said the specifics could definitely be added to the red portion of the document as something to work toward. While he added that he saw where Rivera was coming from, it all comes down to funding.

“It comes down to funding and staffing. To get civilians in here is funding and we’re going to have to fund that,” Pratt said. “Some of the things the audit talked about doing are not feasible for civilians to be doing, so we can’t go there but that’s the way I wanted to design this. So as things that we want to tackle, and ultimately long term when we’ve accomplished a lot of what the audit put forward, this report can be something that goes on as a model to follow to get things through a process and not lose sight or lose track of getting it done.”

Pratt reiterated the department has thoroughly looked through the audit and have so far identified the things that could be taken care of quickest as they prepare and plan on how some of the longer-term goals can be addressed.

Rivera said what the department has so far put together was appreciated and helps give clarity on the progress being made.

“I’m sorry that it ends up being more of a role for you to be more involved with this part and I get it hasn’t been the norm, but it kind of helps for me and possibly for some of the other councilors to see it like this as some of us are more visionary people,” Rivera said.

Rivera added he plans on having Pratt return within the next year to check back in with the Public Safety Committee for another update.

Mayor Joshua Garcia said of the progress report that it was important for the public to stay engaged in the process and give their feedback in real time. He encouraged those interested to watch the Feb. 26 discussion on Holyoke Media’s YouTube channel.

“As we continue to work together to improve the services and culture at the Holyoke Police Department, it’s important the public follow the progress and also understand some of the complexity behind moving as quickly as we would like to,” Garcia said. “Despite the challenges, progress is evident.

Further ongoing progress will rely on the support of the community. As the public reviews this information, consider sharing feedback to the mayor at mayorsoffice@holyoke.org or 413-561-1600.”

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