We’re not going to lie, the Drama Club has been glued to the television for the month of March. Not only did the month see the introduction of Mrs. Wilson, and the re-broadcast of The Tunnel, it also presents one of our new favorite female-led detective shows: Happy Valley. As we’ve followed Sergeant Catherine Cawood through her second season of dramatic and sometimes strange cases in West Yorkshire, we couldn’t help but wonder — what is policing like in our own towns where city-living meets rural surroundings?

Three officers from different communities in Massachusetts answered some questions on this topic: Jody Kasper, the Chief of Police in Northampton; Jonathan Klaren, the Chief of Police in Chilmark; and Ed Lawton, a Lieutenant and Patrol Division Commander out of Acton. Read on to see what we learned from each.

Northampton, MA
Buildings in downtown Northampton, Massachusetts.
Alexius Horatius / CC-BY-SA-3.0

What is your town best known for?

Kasper (Northampton): We are best known for our vibrant downtown area with great restaurants and shopping. People come from all over the region just to sit on Main Street, have a coffee or ice cream, and people watch. We're also known for social activism.

Klaren (Chilmark): Chilmark is a rural community on the island of Martha's Vineyard. The island is a popular summer resort destination. The town is known for its history of farming, fishing, rural setting and beaches.

Lawton (Acton): Issac Davis was born in Acton, Massachusetts. Davis commanded a company of Minuteman from Acton, Massachusetts, during the first battle of the American Revolutionary War. His house remains today protected by our historical society. Davis is memorialized through the Issac Davis Monument on the Acton Town Common.

What would you say the majority of cases are/work is comprised of?

Kasper (Northampton): We have very little violent crime and it is much more common for us to respond to property crimes including shoplifting and other types of thefts, or vandalism. We respond to thousands of medical calls each year, over 500 motor vehicle collisions that result in injury or significant damage, hundreds of domestic violence calls, opiate overdoses, arguments, and others too numerous to count.

Klaren (Chilmark): Property and alcohol related crimes.

Lawton (Acton): Like many towns around us we deal with a large volume of [mental health] calls and we have a clinician on staff to assist us with these calls. We respond to a number of [domestic violence] calls each year, and our department currently belongs to the Domestic Violence Service Network, a group of volunteer advocates that assist victims with these incidents. These individuals prove invaluable with their dedication. Like many departments in the state we continue to see a large volume of scams and fraud mostly internet and phone. These individuals prey on the elderly and attempt to have green dot cards or bitcoins purchased, claiming that they represent utility companies, IRS, etc. Our department has an elderly affairs officer who works closely with the elderly. [And] the town has seen its share of drug addiction calls. All of our officers are trained in the delivery of Narcan, and each officer carries it on their person. We have an officer that follows up on every drug call to offer services to help them cope with their addiction.

Acton, MA
Main St. in Acton, Massachusetts.
John Phelan / CC BY-SA 4.0

What are some of the unique elements of working in your town?

Kasper (Northampton): We have an incredibly diverse population and we strive to best meet the needs of all of our individual community members. This means that we need to understand issues around poverty, mental health, addiction, homelessness, immigration, military service, the LGBTQI community, race and ethnicity, and different religions, to name a few.

Klaren (Chilmark): While the towns' year-round population is just over 1,000, I know most, but not all, of the residents. The police chief, and all police officers here, are very accessible positions to the public. The police department members are very recognizable both on and off duty.

Lawton (Acton): One of the unique elements of working in the town of Acton is Community Support. The department runs a Citizens Police Academy several times a year, and the feedback we receive is tremendous. Our officers teach the Academy, and we’ve had residents take the class more than once. The next class starts this Wednesday.

What aspect of working in law enforcement do you like the most?

Kasper (Northampton): I enjoy that it is constantly evolving and that we are always facing new challenges. The job has become incredibly complex over the past few decades. Over that time I have witnessed dramatic changes in how we respond to addiction, how we handle calls that involve people with mental health issues, how we handle domestic violence, how we react in use of force situations, and how we think about and discuss race and ethnicity. There is still a lot of work to be done, but it's been rewarding to be working and to watch the field progress.

Klaren (Chilmark): Working with the community. All police work is not just about law enforcement. [And] being a mentor and role model towards other officers. It's rewarding to follow the careers of past officers who started their careers as a part-time Chilmark officers, and have earned successful careers either elsewhere or currently the Chilmark Police Department.

Lawton (Acton): We can meet people every day to assist them o a wide range of problems. Some of the issues are simple, and some can be complex. The ability to show up to work and not know what your first call [is] leads to the excitement.

Nashaquitsa Pond in Chilmark, Massachusetts.
Nashaquitsa Pond in Chilmark, Massachusetts.
John Phelan / CC BY 3.0

How does working in your town compare to towns and cities of differing sizes?

Lawton (Acton): I have worked in a much smaller community where I would go a whole shift without receiving a call. In the smaller towns, you need to be self-motivated and make up your activity with security checks, motor vehicle enforcement, and you would investigate the incidents that you responded. In a larger department, we have a community policing officer, traffic officers, and a detective unit which investigates all of our incidents. The officer takes an initial report and then it followed up by the detective division.

What aspect of your community inspires you to continue in law enforcement?

Kasper (Northampton): Northampton is a fantastic community that is welcoming to all. I'm honored to be tasked with leading the department that protects that kind of community.

Klaren (Chilmark): This department is very appreciative of the support this community shows us. With that, we fully acknowledge that support is a perishable commodity and needs to be constantly earned. This inspires all the members to the Chilmark Police Department to work and train hard so they we can provide a competent, professional and fair police service to this community and keep these support levels high.

Lawton (Acton): The town of Acton has been great to the police department. We have a state of the art Public Safety Facility, with 43 sworn officers. The town has a small town feel with a call volume that makes it interesting. The citizens of Acton are very supportive of their police department and make working in Acton an enjoyable experience.

Happy Valley concludes on Monday, April 15 at 9pm on WGBX 44.