Moving the town another step toward progressive policing, the Great Barrington Police Department has named a five-member Community Outreach Team to serve as a liaison with community groups and underrepresented citizens.

Great Barrington Police Chief, Paul Storti made the following statement:

This team’s emphasis is building trust, understanding, and transparency through two-way conversations so we can learn from each other, as education is our top priority. We hope this will bring a better mutual connection between our police and our community.

The department intended to appoint a single officer to the position, but interest was so great among officers that four members of the department have been appointed: Officers Andres Huertas, Olivia Cobb, Kris Balestro and his comfort dog Beko, as well GBPD Executive Assistant Cara Becker.

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The team will focus first on identifying issues around youth and young adults, homelessness, aging, race and ethnicity, among others. As the program evolves, outreach team members hope to partner with anyone whose voices may have previously been underrepresented.

The GBPD has already taken a number of steps to broaden its options for handling emergencies or calls involving addiction and mental health challenges. A part-time mental health professional is on staff and last year the department added “Officer Beko,” a comfort dog whose presence at calls can aid in calming those involved in a stressful encounter.

This month, the GBPD announced the addition of “recovery coaches” to its community resources as well.

Storti said members of the Community Outreach Team will be proactively connecting with local groups and organizations, but the team also welcomes invitations initiated from the community.

“We hope this will grow organically,” said Storti. “We look forward to this new collaborative effort with the community.”

Information: Outreach contact information (413) 528-0306.

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