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East Longmeadow to reinstate detective bureau

Date: 4/11/2011

April 11, 2011

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW — The East Longmeadow Police Department expects to see the creation of a detective bureau by the end of the summer or early September.

Police Chief Douglas Mellis said the inception of the new division is the result of an agreement reached while negotiating a new contract recently.

"We've talked with the Board of Selectmen and with the union and now we're looking to [promote] a sergeant up to detective sergeant and make a patrol officer a detective," Mellis said. "By doing this, we can increase the capabilities when it comes to investigations."

At the candidate's forum hosted by the East Longmeadow Council on Aging on March 24, Selectman Jack Villamaino, who is running unopposed for re-election, lauded the creation of the new unit.

"If you've ever had reason to call the police and [the follow-up] has taken two or three days, now it will be much more immediate because there will be dedicated officers there to follow up on all your reports," he said.

Currently, patrol officers follow-up on their own cases on an as-needed basis, but the detective unit would allow for more in-depth investigations, while allowing patrol officers more time to devote to other aspects of their job.

"It gives us the ability to follow-up on cases and investigate crimes more closely, such as whether or not the modus operandi — or the M.O. — of a suspect is similar to other crimes in the area, which could help us find the suspect," Mellis said. "It will give us more continuity in our investigations."

Mellis said that those who might question the need for such a department should consider that it is more effective to train one or two people to perform a task than ask the entire department to learn the skills needed for thorough investigations.

"We don't train every officer in fatal accident reconstruction, nor do we train everyone to be homicide investigators," Mellis explained as other areas where the Police Department relies on those with specialized training.

Crime in suburban areas is on the rise, according to Mellis, who cited increases in break-ins and home invasions in East Longmeadow as examples.

"There has been a definite increase in some crimes. It's moving from the city and coming into the suburbs," he said. "Things are changing constantly, so we're in an ongoing process of trying to figure out how to best serve the people in town and close cases."

The concept of a detective bureau is not a new one for East Longmeadow.

"We had one a number of years ago," Mellis said. "For whatever reason, a previous administration decided to eliminate it, probably because of reduced manpower."

The issue of manpower is one reason why the new bureau will not be created immediately. The Police Department currently has three new officers in training.

Timothy Driscoll and Michael Ignalls are both attending the Springfield Police Academy at Westover Air Reserve Base, which trains East Longmeadow officers, as well as Springfield and Holyoke law enforcement officers. They are due to graduate in mid-May.

James Gagnon is training at the Western Massachusetts Police Academy at Springfield Technical Community College and is due to graduate later in the summer.

"If we could start today, I would," Mellis said. "But we don't have the manpower right now, so we're going to have to wait until we get the new officers here and acclimated to the town."

Mellis admitted that there is no protocol for how the new detectives will be chosen, but said ultimately, the decision would involve the Board of Selectmen.

"We're still up in the air about how we're going to do this. We're trying to figure out how to fine tune the selection process," Mellis said.

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