Eager to engage: Police complete community work

Jan 2, 2024

For as long as he can remember, the Wareham Police Department and Association has “always” done community work, said Public Information Officer Bryan Whalen. 

When Wareham officers are not patrolling the neighborhoods, watching the streets and protecting the town, they are attending towns events, participating in donation drives, providing resources and making changes to procedures for the benefit community members. 

Building trust and transparency with their respective municipalities, is “vital” for officers to maintain “community stability, officer safety and effective policing,” according to the International Association of Police Chiefs. One way to accomplish this is by engaging and connecting with residents in a more relaxed environment as police ordinarily only get to interact with them during situations of need and distress.

Whalen said Chief Walter Correia encourages the department to keep up this engagement whether through an organized program or just simple interactions while around town, such as stopping by a kid’s lemonade stand.

Lieutenant Michael Smith serves as the community liaison, meaning he oversees most of the outreach work. 

This year, the Police Association raised and donated money to many organizations and causes, including the Council on Aging, Cops for Kids with Cancer, Boston Children’s Hospital, breast cancer awareness and the Wareham High School varsity boys basketball team.

The association also held blood drives, Stuff-a-Cruiser, Shop with a Cop and delivered letters to Santa.

The Police Department participated in a number of activities and events this year, including the Wareham Elementary School STEAM Night, the Council on Aging chair volleyball tournament and Touch-a-Trucks. 

In addition, the department engaged with the community through hosting a meet and greet and donating donuts to the Wareham youth soccer team.

The department also worked on ways to improve techniques and resources to help those who may be in trouble.

For example, the department partners with Plymouth County Outreach for support for those who may be struggling with an addiction.

With Wareham seeing the highest reported rate of overdose deaths in Plymouth County for 2022, the resources and services offered through this partnership may help a number of those individuals.

“It's been very, very successful and we have seen a noticeable change,” said Whalen of the partnership.

The department also implemented the Blue Envelope Program to help those with autism communicate with officers.

Officers also undergo special training such as the “Integrating Communications, Assessment and Tactics,” which aims to improve de-escalation techniques, according to Whalen.

According to the Police Department, Wareham has experienced a “20% increase in calls related to mental health, suicide attempts and threats” since 2020. 

The department has also been pushing to get body cameras. 

Whalen said it is one of Correia’s goals that is still getting “ironed out.”

“We’re kind of in the information stage of trying to find out the products we want to go with because there’s quite a few out there,” he said.

In addition to gathering information, the department will also have to figure out the logistics of implementing a body camera program as well as a plan for how to finance it.