WPD to implement ‘Cops in Shops’ program

The issue of underage drinking was raised at last night’s Housing Committee meeting when Interim Chief of the Williamstown Police Department (WPD) Arthur Parker spoke in an attempt to open communication with the College and discuss the department’s new Cops in Shops program.

In addition to his remarks on the new program, Parker raised the possibility of the WPD participating in Security walk-throughs of campus dorms.

In response, Director of Security Jean Thorndike commented after the meeting that the discussions on the subject had just begun.

“We had begun talking about this as a possibility in order to improve our relationship and the student’s relationship with the WPD,” she said. “We have no specific plans to implement this right away. Discussions will continue.”

Parker began his comments by explaining that the WPD’s role in the community is not just about fighting crime. “95 percent of our time is devoted to public service while only about five percent is actual cops and robber-type stuff,” he said.

Parker described his conception of police work as a service to the community and not just as a law enforcement officer. One of Parker’s goals is to increase community policing as a part of his program to improve relations with town residents. Parker said that the hardest part of his job and biggest fear is having to explain to parents that their child was killed in some kind of accident.

After explaining his policing philosophy, Parker introduced the Cops in Shops program. According to a press release issued by the WPD, the program’s goal “is to combat the problem of underaged drinking within our community by identifying underaged purchasers and legal buyers who are procuring to distribute to underaged persons.”

Parker explained that WPD officers dressed in plain clothes and posing as retail employees in liquor stores will administer the program.

Storeowners, Williams College and the Williams College Security Department will also participate in the program.

According to Parker, the penalty for minors convicted of possessing or transporting alcoholic beverages, attempting to procure alcohol or possessing a false identification can include fines and a six-month loss of a driver’s license.

After the meeting Housing Committee president Phil Swisher ’01 said that although Parker’s visit raised some controversial issues, “I am pleased that we are beginning a dialogue on these issues and I look forward to working with the town police through Housing Committee in the future.”

In separate business conducted after Parker left, the Housing Committee passed a proposal recommending to the administration that Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS) training, which educates students in responsible drinking, become a mandatory part of the first-days program. The intention of such a measure would be to increase awareness among students about the dangers of alcohol and would hopefully lead to safer and more responsible party guests.

Swisher said that he will now work with the administration and the College Council to try to implement this proposal next year.

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