There is some confusion about the community policing article that is on the warrant in each town.

Some say it adds nothing, because the police already do this. In fact, at the request of the police chiefs, the bylaw language actually affirms that it is “in keeping with current practices” and the constitution. What the article adds is that it makes current police practice official policy. By making it official policy, rather than just the way we do things, we affirm local control. This is why it is not redundant.

Inducements to change the way we do things could easily come by way of an expansion of 287(g) agreements. Section 287(g) of the Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 punts responsibility for enforcement of federal immigration law to local police. As other communities have learned, a 287(g) agreement is expensive for the town and makes the town less safe. Framingham is among towns that have withdrawn from a 287(g) agreement.

Federal threats and inducements are having negative effects on the community already. There is tremendous fear among immigrants on the Island. These are people with essential roles in our Island economy. Their fear can be reduced by better understanding of police practices here and by reassurance that those practices are not subject to unpredictable change because of political pressure from off Island. They need to know that we’ve got their back.

These negative effects can be reduced by better understanding that these immigrants are not criminals. Immigration lawyers tell us that it is not a crime to overstay one’s visa after having entered legally. Many immigrants are concerned about their status even though they entered the country legally.

This bylaw would not put any federal funding at risk.

It’s understandable that the police don’t want to be told what to do. Nobody does. But this article doesn’t tell them what to do. It says “keep doing what you’re doing. And if you come under pressure to change what you’re doing, we’ve got your back.” John Adams said that we have a government of laws, not of men. This bylaw holds the line for local control no matter who is elected to town, county, state, or federal offices. It’s understandable that the police might take this warrant article as an expression of mistrust. Instead it means we like what you’re doing. Keep it up. Don’t change. If somebody tries to persuade you otherwise, we’ve got your back.

There are strong reasons for you to pass this measure in your town. Support your police in their stand against any attempts to tell them what to do, especially any threats or inducements that might come from off Island. We like our police and our communities the way they are.

Bruce Nevin