Shared use of a fingerprinting machine sparked discussion among the Aquinnah selectmen this week about the terms of a contract between the town and Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) for emergency services.
Aquinnah police chief Randhi Belain told the selectmen Tuesday that he had questions about the use of a new fingerprinting machine, soon to be obtained by the tribe through a federal grant. Chief Belain said it was his understanding that the machine would be housed at the town police station and be available for use by both the tribe and the town. Mr. Belain said this week he learned that the machine would be housed at the tribal administration building.
“I don’t think it’s their intent for us not to have access to it but I don’t know for sure because I haven’t heard from [the tribe],” the chief said. “At this point I want to know what the police department’s role is, if any, and make decisions from there.”
A memorandum of understanding between the town and the tribe that dates to 2011 spells out shared responsibilities for emergency services between the town and the tribe, including use of equipment. The tribe applied for the grant for the fingerprinting machine to run background checks for employees. The machine is commonly used in connection with criminal background checks. But Mr. Belain said if the machine is not housed at the town police station, there could be questions involving training and responsibility.
“It sounds like the standard operating procedures are not being followed and my suggestion may be to put it in writing to revoke the standard operating procedures at this point because I just don’t know,” the chief said.
Mr. Belain said up to five people would be trained on the machine. Selectman and board chairman Spencer Booker said it could be a liability issue if the machine was kept at the tribal administration building without police supervision or training.
“Which makes me say why would I want the [police] to be even involved in this machine,” he said.
“Even if they did say we could use it, I don’t know,” said Chief Belain.
“It feels like a hot potato,” Mr. Booker replied.
The selectmen said they would call for a meeting between the town and the tribe to discuss the issue.
In other business, the selectmen awarded a hardship commercial scalloping license to Fred Croft.
They also approved a special town meeting warrant for Feb. 5, when voters will be asked if the town should pursue ownership of the Gay Head Light.