City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he and Chief Brian Kyes are ready to work with the City Council and the Chelsea Black Committee to look at reforms to the Police Department in the wake of nationwide and local protests against police brutality and policing strategies.
Chelsea is unique in that it is one of the most diverse forces in the state, routinely in the top three for diversity of officers and superior officers. It puts Chelsea in an odd position where many reforms being called for nationwide have already been instituted over the years in the Chelsea Police Department following many troubled years in the 1980s and 1990s.
Still, Ambrosino said there is great room for change, and they are ready to listen.
“We both have expressed a willingness to sit down with community groups and listen to ideas to police our city in a better way,” he said. “I expect that to start in the next week or two. I believe there will be Council action and the Chief and I have expressed an interest in sitting down with the Chelsea Black Community. I expect that shortly to happen.”
Ambrosino said over the past 10 years – particularly the last five years – the police, fire, DPW and City Hall workforces have striven to be more diverse and representative of the community – which is predominately Spanish-speaking.
“The Police Department has built in my years an extremely good rapport with our community,” he said. “Since the Trump Administration came into office, it has been difficult to quell the fear and our police have worked hard to do that. I’m hoping good will will pay dividends in time. I’m not saying they are perfect, and there is room to improve. I also don’t know many Police Departments that have a better community relationship that the Chelsea Police.
“It is an extremely diverse force,” he continued. “I believe if we’re not first or second in the state, we are in the top four in terms of diversity in the ranks.”
He said the goal even before the unrest nationally was to make all facets of City government – whether police, fire, DPW or City Hall – more diverse and reflective of the community.
“We have to allay a lot of fears about trusting local government here and if that government looks like them, there is less fear to allay,” he said. “We have a long way to go there. We’ve definitely improved, but we have to want and do better in terms of diversity in our workforce.”