Looking at the Police: In Everett, Police Officers Look like Police Officers

(This is the third part of an occasional series on the practices of the Everett Police to help clarify what does and does not happen on the local police department, framed under the national discussion about policing strategies and potential reforms.)

An interaction with the police – whether in Everett or any other municipality – can be influenced by the way the officers look when they arrive; what they wear and what they don’t wear can create tension between the public and the police before one word is exchanged.

Nationally, there has been much discussion about the militarization of police departments – the guns that are carried and available, the military-style equipment provided be the federal government and the body armor sometimes wore by officers.

In some places, police can look more like soldiers headed into battle as opposed to law officers keeping the peace.

It isn’t the case in Everett, according to Chief Steve Mazzie, and that’s by design.

“Our officers look like traditional police officers,” he said. “They wear the usual Class B uniform, and they have Class A uniforms for parades or formal occasions. We have the traditional police look because we think it’s important. We want the officers to be seen and to have a known presence…Our goal is not to scare people. We want a presence, but we don’t want to scare people. We want to wear something that lets people know where to go if they need help.”

One difference, though, is Chief Mazzie requires all officers to wear Body Armor to protect them for life-safety. As chief, there are many opinions on the body armor, and some officers like it while others don’t. Mazzie said he feels it is a good idea, and mandates it in the department.

“One thing you’ll see is we have pushed and have mandated officers to wear body armor,” he said. “We paid for it through a grant program. Unfortunately, officers are still getting shot and killed in America at a high rate. Body armor can save you, but not if you don’t wear it. Several chiefs in America have different philosophies. If I want my officers to go home safe, I want them to wear it.”

The body armor can look different – particularly if it’s worn outside the uniform. One misconception in the look of Everett officers can be the carrier for the body armor. Because officers have much more than a gun and a club these days, the body armor carrier helps them to store equipment and not develop back problems in the long run – almost like a backpack.

Sometimes that can look intimidating, but Chief Mazzie said it is for long-term health.

“Many of the officers like the carrier,” he said. “A lot of officers develop back problems, and the carrier disperses the equipment better and keeps the weight centered. In the old days they may have had handcuffs, a gun, a club and maybe a radio. Officers now carry on them Narcan, gloves, CPR equipment, a Taser, handcuffs, a radio, a flashlight, a knife, a baton and more.”

No Military Equipment In Five Years

As opposed to neighboring cities like Revere – who have participated extensively in federal military surplus programs – Everett Police have not taken part in that now-controversial program.

One of the major calls from the public in Everett and across the nation is to de-militarize the police – meaning that officers shouldn’t look like soldiers and shouldn’t have weapons and vehicles that are made for war zones. A federal program introduced about 20 years ago allowed police departments to get free military surplus vehicles. They only had to gain local approval and come get it. Nearby Revere stocked its police department to the hilt with military weapons and vehicles, but Chief Mazzie said it wasn’t their style.

“It’s a different philosophy of policing,” he said. “It’s not my philosophy.”

He said they have taken things from the program in the past, but not for many years.

“We have been a participant of the program, but we have not taken any inventory or equipment from them in five years, I’m told,” he said.

The last things that were procured were optical gear binoculars and some old M-4 rifles with a wooden stock to be used for the Police Honor Guard. “We have no combat weapons,” he said. “We took the rifles for the honor guard and they do look great on those formal occasions.”

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