NEW BEDFORD — Opiate abuse and domestic violence are at the forefront of the New Bedford Police Department’s agenda, Police Chief David A. Provencher said today.
Provencher said he sees the department’s use of Narcan, a drug carried by officers that temporarily reverses the effects of an overdose, as somewhat like a double-edged sword.
“It’s sad to say it’s very successful. I’m (also) happy to say it’s very successful,” he said of Narcan’s use locally, during a meeting with The Standard-Times’ Editorial Board.
Critics of Narcan’s use say it can encourage heroin users by providing them with a safety net. Provencher, though, said his rationale for the department’s use of the antidote is simple.
“We’re in the business of saving lives. That’s why we’re here. There’s no life that has more value than another,” he said. “If I can deploy a mechanism to save a life, then I’m happy with that.
“Opiates are quickly becoming our major priority,” he said.
Provencher’s wide-ranging interview with the Editorial Board this morning touched on many subjects, including hiring practices, the department’s upcoming budget, past successes and his own spat with mayoral candidate Maria Giesta, who said she would fire him, if elected.
He said he’s been happy to see the District Attorney’s Office place such “an emphasis” on domestic violence. He said NBPD tries to “lock in statements as soon as we can” to prosecute cases against batterers, should victims decide against testifying.
Provencher cited as a major success the in-roads the department has made in getting guns off the streets and gang members behind bars.
“We have targeted that as major priorities,” he said, working with the district attorney’s office and other law enforcement partners like the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The chief said the department has had difficulty attracting qualified women and Spanish-speaking officers into the department as well as retaining existing personnel from going to the state police.
He said he submitted his fiscal 2016 budget to the mayor’s office and it did not contain any budget cuts. He added that he has not had any conversations with the mayor’s office about his new budget.
Provencher was reserve in his remarks about mayoral candidate Giesta’s comments last week.
“I’m not quite sure where that criticism is coming from,” he said, adding her remarks that serious crime is up in New Bedford is not supported by data.
Her comments were a disservice to the men and women of the department, he said. “Without having a conversation with that individual, it’s very hard for me to comment further,” he said.
Giesta, reached for comment, said her comments were not against the men and women in the department. “This is about the leadership by the chief,” she said, not backing down from her pledge to fire him, if elected.
She said that the chief’s remarks that serious crime is down is “laughable.”