Jess Dipasquale is a Republican candidate for the Police Commission and is a current member of that board. A telecom executive and 33-year Weston resident, Mr. Dipasquale is active in several community organizations.
Mr. Dipasquale is proud of his role as a Police Commissioner in creating the School Resource Officer (SRO) program. “I worked hard to push the program,” he said, “but it was not popular at first. The Board of Education at the time didn’t want to deal with cops in the school, and there were some parents who didn’t want a uniformed officer with a gun in the schools.”
“I felt that if a police officer could work in the schools in a preemptive way, to get to know the kids and befriend and understand them, they could work to prevent a kid feeling isolated, or disrespected, or bullied, and get into trouble.”
“I saw it as a cross between a police officer and a guidance counselor. And it worked. We made a few accommodations. We gave the officer a soft uniform, we made the gun a bit less prominent, and we gave him an office, to blend in. Later, we added an SRO to the middle school, which was also a home run. Suddenly, the naysayers became quiet.”
On the question of SROs in the elementary schools, Mr. Dipasquale said, “I’m all for it. It all depends on the budget. It has to be a shared expense between the Board of Education and the Town, so the Police Commission has to work with the schools on it.” He acknowledged that the counseling part of the SRO role may not fit as well in lower schools.
“Threats at the high school level tend to be from within, a troubled kid for example. At the elementary level, the threat tends to be from without, someone trying to come in and do something horrible. The good news is that we have put in external defense mechanisms that should prevent those things from happening.”
On the contention by another candidate that members of the commission should have experience as a police officer, Mr. Dipasquale disagreed. “We do the business end of the department — budgets, contract negotiations, hiring. We are also the traffic authority. We don’t do the actual policing or direct the officers. That’s the job of police officers and the chief.”
Mr. Dipasquale is also proud of leading the Police Commission’s annual naming of a Citizen of the Year. “We pick an outstanding citizen to show what Weston is all about as a volunteer, usually related to public safety.”
Looking ahead, Mr. Dipasquale said the Police Commission must anticipate the retirement of officers at some point. “The bench has to be built now,” he said. “We have to make sure we train well, hire the best officers available, and plan for the future. The challenge is that it’s very, very hard today to find well-qualified candidates.”
“Then it’s a question of, do you hire licensed officers from other towns, which can have its own set of issues, or do we hire people we have to send to the academy and train? That is very expensive, and takes up to a year.”
And finally, Mr. Dipasquale said he is proud of his record working with others on the Police Commission and with other Town boards. “There is no partisanship on the Police Commission,” he said. “It’s only about what’s best for the police department, what’s fiscally responsible, and what the community wants.”
“We’re pretty responsive,” he said, referring to times citizens come to the Commission with requests for action on traffic issues. “I think sometimes people are surprised by how responsive we are.”