Framingham’s SWAT decision

Rick Holmes

Two-and-a-half years after Eurie Stamps Sr. was killed in a botched SWAT raid, Framingham’s SWAT team has been disbanded, by order of Police Chief Steven Carl. It gets a little complicated, and I think there’s more to it than I could put in my column today.

Carl wouldn’t say he disbanded the SWAT team because of the Stamps raid; it was a professional decision, not an emotional reaction. But the Stamps raid convinced him that training had to be improved and that supervision had to be at the highest level. He beefed up the training requirements, reduced the size of the team and decided if the SWAT expert and team commander, Deputy Chief Craig Davis, ever left the department, the SWAT team would likely have to be disbanded.

Davis left for Ashland, Carl left for Assumption College, and the SWAT team has left the building.

Might it come back? There are two inside candidates for the chief position, neither of which is considered a SWAT guy.  Town Manager Bob Halpin says he has no opinion one way or another about SWAT, that it won’t factor in his decision, and it will be entirely up to the next chief.  And there will be no public discussion of reinstating the SWAT team, not before selectmen, not before Town Meeting.  Framingham operates under a “strong chief” and “strong town manager” model, and that’s how it works.

I expect there’s grumbling in the FPD about Carl’s move. SWAT work is lucrative and fun. That puts pressure on the two candidates for chief, Halpin and all the other Memorial Building insiders. One way this may play out is in a decision over who to call when the town needs a SWAT team.  Carl has arranged for the state police to provide that support. It’s headquartered in Framingham, and its made up of well-trained officers who do SWAT as a full-time job. The other option is to join a regional collaborative (Halpin suggested NEMLEC), in which member departments contribute a few SWAT-trained officers to be on call. Local SWAT officers would like that opportunity, but there may be liability issues with the arrangement.

The people of Framingham might have an opinion on the issue. In an emergency, would you rather have a team of trained, experienced, full-time SWAT professionals working directly with FPD liaison officers, or a mix-and-match team of part-timers drawn from communities near and far?  Halpin might say it doesn’t matter what they think, because Framingham’s SWAT decision has no place in public discussion. That’s where we disagree.