Metro, Newton

Reverend and Newton Police Chief Meet to Discuss Ways to Strengthen Relationships Between Police and Community

Rev. Devlin Scott, senior pastor of Newton’s NewCity Church, and John Carmichael, chief of the Newton Police Department (NPD), came together for a public discussion on Oct. 6 focused on the relationship between police and the people they serve.

“I feel that we’re obligated to create programs and opportunities for officers to be a part of the community,” Carmichael said. “I think sometimes we think of police officers as being made in a factory somewhere—they’re not. They’re your neighbors, they’re your kids’ coaches, and they’re part of the community.”

Scott echoed the sentiment, adding the importance of a national initiative with the same goal called Faith & Blue that he and Carmichael are a part of.

“[Faith & Blue] really is saying, ‘Let’s bring together some large entities and dependable agencies in our community, like faith institutions and police departments, and try to work together,” Scott said.

Faith & Blue is a national organization seeking to connect law enforcement agencies with their respective communities through faith-based organizations, according to its website

Carmichael said that when he was young, he lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston and then moved to Medfield, Mass. He then described the first time he and his father visited Baker’s Pond in the center of town, shortly after moving there.

“We walk over and we see this kid who’s got a fishing pole,” Carmichael said. “There’s a police officer, and the police officer is putting a worm on the hook. I have never forgotten that. I had a positive view of police when I was young—I saw this when I first moved out there and I knew that’s what I wanted to be.”

Scott did not share the same experience.

“That’s a heartfelt story about police officers. That’s not my story,” said Scott, who grew up in Chicago.

He recounted a story in which his family was tied up and robbed within their home when he was five.

“I remember it being daytime when this happened and nighttime when the police came,” Scott said. “I overheard a police officer asking my mom, ‘What do you guys have here that they might be looking for?’ He started blaming us as a family. That was my very first experience. Very different than yours.”

For much of the meeting, Scott questioned Carmichael on what progress NPD has made on a list of recommendations that the Newton Police Reform Task Force had submitted to it.

The task force was a 12-member group convened by Mayor Ruthanne Fuller in July 2020, according to its submitted recommendations.

The recommendations included goals such as improving relationships between the community and the NPD, and striving for a healthy, inclusive culture within the NPD, according to Scott.

“There’s a lot of work to do. But I will say that I’m very proud of the fact that the new police department has made, I would say, significant progress in every one of the categories,” Carmichael said.

He discussed ongoing efforts in changing the officer hiring process to create more diversity, educating all officers through an intervention training program, and the new Community Crisis Intervention Team, designed to unite the efforts of all parties in mental health issues.

For some of the audience members, questions still remained after the 90-minute public meeting, with more work to do in order to strengthen the relationship between the NPD and the people of Newton.

“I’d like to understand more about the community policing idea,” said Sally Brickell of Newtonville. “I’ve lived here [almost] 30 years, and, personally, I haven’t had that many interactions with the police.”

October 16, 2022