It took five years to negotiate, but now, police officers in the neighboring towns of Wellesley and Dover will be able to make arrests and exercise authority in both communities. A little more than a month after Wellesley officials adopted the proposed mutual-aid agreement, Dover's Board of Selectmen unanimously voted last Thursday to accept the pact.
"It's only for offenses that start in your community, or if called for assistance by a neighboring community," Dover Police Chief Joseph G. Griffin said. The agreement between the Dover and Wellesley departments allows officers to cross the town line to ticket drivers for moving violations, perform work details during road construction, and join forces on investigations.
Prior to the agreement, if a Dover officer were to stop a speeding driver after the vehicle had crossed into Wellesley, the officer was unable to issue a ticket because jurisdictional lines had been crossed.
However, Griffin said, "This isn't to chase the person several towns over. We're not trying to get power. We're trying to protect our citizens and communities and enforce the law regardless of an artificial town line, when appropriate."
Bill Brooks, Wellesley's deputy police chief and an advocate of the agreement, said, "The main point of it is to cross-designate officers from both departments to give them jurisdiction to work in both departments."
According to Brooks, more such agreements are needed.
"Wellesley's Police Department lost three drunk-driving violation cases in 2006 for not having an agreement in place with the town of Natick," he said. The officers made what they thought were lawful arrests, but the cases were dropped because the Wellesley officers had crossed into Natick and out of their jurisdiction, Brooks said.
"We were trying to come up with what we felt was a good policy that addresses legal issues and gives police officers appropriate authority," said Wellesley Police Chief Terrence Cunningham.
Under state law, officers have jurisdiction only in the town they serve unless sworn in as a special officer in another town, appointments that have to be renewed annually.
The mutual-aid agreement signed by Dover and Wellesley fills in a gap in the system, Griffin and Cunningham said.
Griffin said the aid agreement is binding until either party rescinds its approval, rather than require renewal each year.
The Dover chief said his next goal is to update an agreement from 1977 with neighboring Sherborn and Medfield; and adopt new mutual-aid arrangements with the town's remaining neighbors, Natick, Needham, Walpole, and Westwood.