Suspects In Winn Brook House Breaks Returned To Neighborhood: Belmont Police

Photo: Belmont Police is stepping up patrols in the Winn Brook neighborhood

Suspected suspects in a previous house break in the Winn Brook neighborhood were spotted Wednesday by surveillance cameras, according to Belmont Police.

On Nov. 11, at approximately 5:05 p.m., two individuals were observed on video cameras in the backyard of a home on Eliot Road. The pair matched the description of two suspects who were captured on video at a previous house break in the same neighborhood.

Belmont Police immediately began a search of the area for the two. Officers’ located evidence connected to the two suspects in a backyard. At approximately 5:53 p.m., a “Reverse 911” call went out to neighborhood residents advising them to shelter in place while the search for the suspects was under way.

Belmont Police received mutual aid assistance in the search that included police officers from neighboring communities, the MBTA Transit Police and the Massachusetts State Police including its Air Wing. At 8 p.m., a second “Reverse 911” call went out to the neighborhood residents lifting earlier advisory.

Most of these breaks are occurring in the area of the Winn Brook Elementary School. The Belmont Police have responded by increasing directed patrol activity in that area and our detective division is working full time on these cases.

The majority of these breaks occur in the late afternoon or early evening. In recent breaks, entry is being gained through the back of the house. The suspects are targeting expensive jewelry, electronics and cash. If possible, place these items in a safe deposit box or a hidden area other than a dresser or closet.

We are urging residents to please call 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY if they observe any activity which might be suspicious at your house or a neighbor’s house.

What to look for:

1. Someone parking in front of your house and then walking down the street or around the corner.

2. A stranger walking around your or your neighbor’s house or in &through their back yard.

For investigative information only, please contact the BPD Detectives at: 617-993- 2550 for all other concerns, please call 617-993-2501

TIPS: Criminals will often watch resident entry/exit patterns and often strike while people are at work during the day or away on vacation. The Belmont Police suggest residents take the following steps to help protect your home from burglary:

  • Use sturdy doors: Solid wooden doors or doors reinforced with steel offer much more protection than hollow core wooden doors.
  • Use safe locks: Adding quality deadbolt locks is a great idea because they can’t be ‘popped’ the way spring-latch locks can. Ensure that sliding doors are secured with a security plate or screw in the upper track and a metal bar or piece of wood in the lower track.
  • Lock windows: When you are not at home, always lock your first floor windows.
  • Security alarm systems: Most systems have loud sirens. Certain systems alert the alarm company to contact the police to respond to the home. Security decals are also placed on doors and windows as a deterrent.
  • In a single family home or a multi-dwelling building, the outer hallway door should be locked. If a thief has access to the inner hallway, the thief now has a cover from the public’s eye and extra time to break through the front door without being noticed.
  • Turn on your front and rear porch lights at dusk so that the outside of the house is well lit around the entrances.
  • When the house is unattended, leave on a radio or sound fixture and also use timers on some inside lights to leave an impression that someone is home.
  • Ensure that there are no objects lying around the exterior of your home that could be used to break into your home (ladder, tools, etc) or objects that could be stolen (bike, lawnmower etc.)
  • Most importantly, introduce yourself to your neighbors. Consider having a neighbor or friend watch your home when you’re on vacation (cancel news paper delivery; pick up mail, put away trash barrels, etc.)
  • If you observe any activity which might be suspicious at your house or a neighbor’s, please call 9-1-1. For investigative information only, please contact the BPD Detectives at: 617-993- 2550 For all other concerns, please call 617-993-2501

Select Board Withdraws Civil Service Article Due To ‘Technical Error’; Others See Folding A Losing Position

Photo: Roy Epstein, Chair of the Select Board

In a surprise that no one saw coming, the Belmont Select Board voted unanimously to withdraw its controversial article removing civil service for Belmont’s Police and Fire departments mere minutes before it was to be presented before a contentious Special Town Meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Roy Epstein, Select Board chair, told the members the reason for the removal of the article was due to a “technical error” involving rank and file members taking civil service tests for promotions in the coming months.

“I think this sort of last minute change is one that forces our hand in this case. And I would say a postponement at this stage is certainly the prudent approach,” said Tom Caputo of the Select Board.

Because the article was never read into the warrant, there would be no debate and discussion by the Town Meeting members so Town Moderator Mike Widmer quickly dissolved the assembly as the article was the final item on the warrant.

The withdrawal of Article 10 removed what many predicted to be a heated debate on the future of civil service in Belmont.

Supporters of ending civil service, which included town officials, Select Board and the leaders of both fire and police, contend the town would see significant cost savings by ending a 105-year-old arcane system for hiring and promotions, replacing it with an efficiently run locally-focused practice.

Opponents made up of the rank and file of Belmont Fire and Police and resident supporters ask why throw out the baby with the bathwater as changes to civil service – such as altering age limits and increasing diversity in the number of candidates – can be made by changes to the existing language of the agreement. Several Town Meeting Members also questioned the validity of the supposed financial savings with such a move.

Paul Roberts (Pct. 8), a vocal critic of the town’s and Select Board’s tactics said Wednesday night’s board vote had more to do with folding from a losing position.

“My belief is that [the Select Board] did some hasty vote counting  and decided to turn back and live to fight another day. Overall, I think it reflects a haphazard effort all around on Article 10,” he said.

During a meeting of the Select Board that occurred during a break after the Special Town Meeting approved Article 9, Epstein said the board was informed late in the afternoon that Article 10 included a “drafting error” which involved setting the effect date of March 1, 2021 to end civil service protection. It was also assumed this date would protect the interests of police and fire department personnel who were taking civil service promotional exams this fall.

“And we wanted them to have full civil service protection in their new position. And that was always our intent,” said Epstein.

But when the article was reviewed, it was determined that March 1 “was not sufficient,” said Epstein. Because the results of the civil service exams could take longer than previously thought, the board was advised that July 1, 2021 was a more appropriate date to protect any future promotions.

“The idea was not to cause a problem for anyone or to be unfair to anyone who was studying for an exam and then pull the rug from under them by yanking civil service before they had a chance to actually take the test and get the results,” said the Select Board’s Adam Dash.

With the new effective date for leaving civil service being pushed back well passed the scheduled date for the annual Town Meeting in early May 2021, the board decided to allow the members to vote on the article in the coming year.

“Patrice [Garvin, the town administrator] and I recognized if it’s going to be as late as July 1, 2021, we may as well withdraw this article tonight and then we’ll see where we’re at in the spring regarding civil service,” said Epstein.

“We don’t want to do something that did not reflect our true intention. And at this late date there was no cure that other than to withdraw the article,” he said.

Roberts provided his own advice to the those supporting the end of Civil Service in Belmont.

“It is my hope that the Select Board use this extra time to properly study the issue, learn from the experience of other communities and – if they intend to bring this forward again – do so with a plan that addresses the issues raised by our public safety professionals and Town Meeting members. A Town Meeting vote should be the last step in the process, not the first,” said Roberts.

Letter To The Editor: Hate Towards Police Is Counterproductive To Encouraging Change – BAR

Photo: Belmont Against Racism

Letter to the Editor:

Belmont Against Racism (BAR) condemns the verbal abuse of Belmont Police officers by members of the public as reported in the Belmontian on September 14. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Hate begets hate, violence begets violence…”

We support the Belmont Police Department and have confidence in the leadership under Chief James MacIsaac, who has embraced the 21st Century Policing Principles and police reforms. The Department’s policies had already aligned with the 8 Can’t Wait  policies encouraged in the wake of George Floyd’s killing In addition, the BPD has partnered with Communities for Restorative Justice to provide, when parties agree, a restorative justice alternative to court proceedings. We are not Kenosha, or Minneapolis, or Louisville. The BPD has been engaged in conversations with BAR over the past decade and regularly attend the Human Rights Commission meetings. We have all learned from these conversations and have established respect for one another. We appreciate that service that the Department provides for Belmont and are saddened to learn of the negative treatment that the Belmont officers have faced. 

To be clear, BAR strongly condemns police brutality as we have witnessed in the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many others, and we believe officers who commit murder should be swiftly brought to justice. We believe Black lives matter. We support police reform and are hopeful that the Massachusetts legislature will soon send the police reform bill to the governor to be signed.  

But wanting reform is never equal to hating an individual or assuming they oppose reforms. There is no reason for hateful treatment of any individual and this behavior is counterproductive to encouraging change. Hate speech will do nothing to encourage institutional change in housing, health, education, and the environment. Hate speech will not encourage any redirection of investments into alternative community resources, or further the cause of any demands for police reform. 

There should be no place for racism in Belmont and there should be no place for hate either. We urge respectful treatment of police officers in our community as we work together to make Belmont a welcoming community for all. 

Kathryn Bonfiglio

President and the Board of Belmont Against Racism

Belmont Police Officers Increasingly Targeted With Verbal Abuse From The Public

Photo: Belmont Police officers are coming under increasing abuse from some in the public

In the past few months, Belmont Police officers have been receiving an increasing amount of verbal abuse from some members of the public, according to Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac in a report to the Select Board.

Officers report they often receive the “middle finger” or people yell “something derogatory at them on a weekly basis,” said MacIsaac.

In one of the most blatant incidents, almost daily a person driving along Concord Avenue stops, or slows down, at the detail officer and shouts “F–k you, murderer!” or “ACAB” which, according to Board Chair Roy Epstein, “stands for something you can look up … because it’s not a nice term.”

Additionally, anti-police graffiti has been tagged in town with the aforementioned “ACAB” that was recently painted on the underpass of the commuter rail bridge at Belmont Center.

And in one case, the abuse turned physical, according to MacIsaac. On Friday afternoon, Sept. 11, a patrol sergeant responding to an emergency call was driving on Waverley when somebody threw a full cup of coffee across his windshield.

While Belmont Police have experienced the occasional incident by a member of the public, rarely has it been sustained over time and committed by several people.

The reaction from the Select Board was one of dismay that members of the community would attack public safety officers.

“I’m astonished that you think behavior like that is appropriate for a police force that is highly professional, highly courteous, and does a great job,” said Epstein.

“I understand that there is a lot of protest going on nationwide. But I think we need to make sure that we continue to treat the officers in Belmont with the appropriate level of courtesy and respect for the professional job that they deliver to the community,” said Tom Caputo of the Board.

Select Board Member Adam Dash pointed out that MacIsaac and the department have been very supportive of all those police reforms, including when in June high school students held a rally for Black Lives Matters.

“To lash out at them over something like that, it was just barking the wrong tree entirely,” said Dash.

Epstein believed that most Belmontians are supportive of the department and should take the time to demonstrate that fact.

“I would ask is for other members of the public, is when you go by a police officer, maybe you can slow down and say something nice to them, and show that they’re actually appreciated,” said Epstein.

Belmont PD: Suspect Sought In July McLean Fire

Photo: Administration Building, McLean Hospital (WikiMedia Commons)

Belmont Police is seeking information on a suspect who allegedly started a fire at McLean Hospital on Wednesday, July 29.

In a press release dated Aug. 5, Belmont Asst. Police Chief Mark Hurley said Belmont 911 received an alarm at 3:03 p.m. for fire and/or smoke in the administration building at 115 Mill St. Belmont Fire quickly responded and extinguished the blaze.

An investigation utilizing the hospital’s security surveillance cameras revealed a man entering the front door of the building. Once inside, the suspect begins spraying and pouring an unknown substance on the carpeted floor from a handheld container. He then ignited the substance and fled the area.

The suspect is described as a male wearing brown dress shoes, blue pants, a long-sleeve button-down shirt, a surgical mask and sunglasses.

If you have any information pertaining to this incident, please call the Belmont Police Detectives at 617-993-2550.  

The Belmont Police is not releasing video images connected to this investigation to the public at this time.

Letter To The Editor: Chief MacIsaac Discuss George Floyd’s Death And Future Of Trust

Photo: Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac

On Thursday, May 28, I received an email from a Belmont resident who, in light of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a police officer, felt it was necessary to ask me a few questions to proactively ensure the safety of Belmont’s minority citizens. I immediately answered the residents email. I have since heard from others with similar concerns, so I believe it is necessary for me to write this letter.

I watched the video of George Floyd’s death with dismay. As a police officer and former use-of-force instructor, I was sickened by the video. Speaking for the Officers at the Belmont Police Department, I can say that they, too, found the video disturbing. The death of George Floyd runs counter in every way to the values of democracy, justice, and fundamental fairness. Any officer who is not upset about the death of George Floyd, or seeks to justify the unjustifiable, should leave the profession of law enforcement.

Please know that our officers work very hard to build and maintain trust within our community. Our number one goal is to provide excellent, fair and impartial police services to the community of Belmont. Over the years, leadership at the BPD has infused an ethos into our Department requiring that all citizens and visitors to Belmont that we encounter receive fair, equal and compassionate treatment. Maintaining and cultivating this culture is our number one priority.

The most effective way we can build trust between the police and the community is for us to get to know one another.

Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac

Our officers are aware of the differences of explicit and implicit biases and have received annual training on how biases can affect their interactions with others. Belmont Police Officers are trained in de-escalation techniques that include de-escalating incidents involving people in crisis, people living with addiction, and people with autism.

The circumstances of the George Floyd death will and should cause police organizations across the country to take a hard look at their officers and their organizational cultures to prevent these kinds of tragedies from happening in the future. I can assure you that the Belmont Police Department fully embraces the six pillars of the principals found in President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

The Belmont Police will continue our partnerships and collaboration with existing and future groups that seek to bring social justice within our community. I have never been more proud of officers and our team at the BPD. At no time during my career, can I recall us having a group of professional and community minded officers like the ones that fill our ranks today. I will be attending each roll call in the coming week to discuss the incident in Minneapolis with our officers and to share the concerns that residents have expressed to me.

The most effective way we can build trust between the police and the community is for us to get to know one another. I, and the members of the Belmont Police Department, will always make ourselves available to anyone who has concerns or questions regarding operations, tactics and how we interact with the public.

As a police officer, it is heartbreaking to me when I learn that there are people in our community that fear the police. We will make every effort to alleviate that fear and build trust within the Community of Belmont.

James MacIsaac

Belmont Police Chief

Belmont Police Names Hurley New Assistant Chief

Photo: Mark Hurley, Belmont PD Assistant Chief

The Belmont Police Department announce the promotion of Lt. Mark Hurley to the position of Assistant Police Chief.

“His promotion was the first step our plan towards creating a command staff that is invigorated and eager to take on new challenges and ideas,” said Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac.

Hurley will be responsible for planning, administration and operations of the department. In addition to fulfilling all the duties of the second in charge of the department, the Assistant Chief directly oversees the Detective Division, Community Service Division and Joint Public Safety Communication Division E911.

Hurley began his career with the Belmont Police Department in 1998. He was promoted to Sergeant in 2007 and Lieutenant in 2014.

A 1989 graduate of Belmont High School, Assistant Chief Hurley holds a Bachelor of Arts from UMass Boston and Master’s Degree from Western New England College.

Belmont Police Seek Publics Help In Home Invasion On Stults Road

Photo: The crime happened on this street.

The Belmont Police is actively investigating a home invasion that occurred on Sunday night on Stults Road.

According to Police Chief James MacIsaac, at approximately 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 15, Belmont Police patrol officers responded to a home invasion on Stults Road. Two men wearing dark clothing and masks knocked on the homeowner’s door. When they answered, the pair called him by name and forced their way into the residence.

Once inside, the two men were able to obtain cash and jewelry. The suspects then fled the residence.

Detectives are asking residents who may have observed any unusual activity in the area of Stults Road, either last night or at any time in the past, to call 617-993-2550. Detectives are also asking that if residents in the area have doorbell or driveway video to contact detectives if your cameras captured any unusual activity.

The Belmont Police believe this is an isolated incident and there is no threat to the public at this time.

Donation By Allisons Will Provide Belmont PD With Taser Weapons, Training

Photo: A taser manufactured by Axon Enterprise.

The largest private donation in the history of the Belmont Police Department will provide a popular electrical weapon device and the necessary training to officers on patrol.

The gift of $101,325 from Liz and Graham Allison was accepted by the Select Board on Jan. 7 which will go the purchase of Taser weapons for use by officers on the street.

“We’ve had some very serious situations [in Belmont],” including one in which a knife was involved, said recently retired Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin who facilitated the gift request.

“This gives us another tool to be able to utilize and deescalate a situation,” said McLaughlin who facilitated the gift request.

The Allison’s have made several substantial gifts to various town organizations and groups, many anonymously. But McLaughlin said they would like to be associated with this gift as it has the potential of saving lives.

A Taser fires two small barbed darts that puncture the skin and remain attached to the person, delivering a modulated electric current designed to disrupt voluntary control of muscles. While the weapon is deemed less lethal than guns and rifles, there remains a possibility of serious injury and even death whenever the device is used.

The Belmont Police department will soon join more than 200 departments across the Bay State which currently have Tasers in their arsenal.

McLaughlin said the funding gift is just the first step in a long process before the weapon is carried by the department. Officers must successfully complete a state-approved training program, the department must create policies for their use along with continued funding.

A Room Of Stars Came To Send Belmont Police Chief McLaughlin Into Retirement

Photo: A galaxy of police chiefs came to honor Belmont Chief Richard McLaughlin on his retirement after 39 years in public safety.

Former Belmont Town Administrator David Kale said after looking around the Select Board Room in Town Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 17, “this is the safest place to be in America.”

Inside the space were more than a dozen chiefs of police – each with stars blazing from their collars and shoulders – from across Middlesex county along with many officers, current and past, of the Belmont Police Department.

It was a mighty impressive group of leaders from across the region who came out on a wintery morning to fete one of their own.

For the past dozen years, Richard McLaughlin has led the Belmont Police Department and is just a few weeks from retiring after nearly five decades of service to the country and the towns of Arlington and Belmont.

“When I saw the weather forecast yesterday I told (his wife) Sharon ‘you know, we may be here by ourselves’,” said McLaughlin to the crowd that filled the room.

“I can’t believe how many people came. Thank you again. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it,” said an emotional McLaughlin.

Town officials – many of who are his friends – a slew of former Selectmen, town employees, residents (including Middlesex DA Marion Ryan) and past members of the Belmont Police force joined McLaughlin and his law enforcement brethren for a final celebration of his long tenure.

Will Brownsberger and Dave Rodgers, Belmont’s elected officials on Beacon Hill, presented a joint proclamation from the Massachusetts House and Senate, the Select Board’s Adam Dash delivered the town’s own decree and Kale returned to Town Hall to present a plaque to the chief for his years on the beat.

A Navy veteran and graduate of both Northeastern and Anna Maria College, McLaughlin joined the Arlington police in 1980, raising to the rank of captain before being named in 2007 Chief of Police in Belmont.

McLaughlin also took leadership roles in several police organizations such as the president of the Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, treasurer of the Middlesex County Chiefs of Police Association and member of the Northeast Homeland Security Regional Advisory Council.

“You used public safety to reflect who you are and that was to help people,” said Kale. “You leave a legacy of touching many lives over your career in a very positive way.”

“I truly believe that we have a great department with a lot of good people doing a lot of good things including a lot of stuff that’s not seen by the public every day. But they’re out there doing it. And that makes me so proud.

“It’s an honor for me to have been your police chief and I thank you for that,” he said.