By Pattie Pacella, Neighb News Correspondent
The Acushnet Selectboard conducted interviews with three candidates for police chief at its meeting on 10/29/19, all sergeants in the Acushnet Police Department: Thomas Carreau, Gary Coppa and Christopher Richmond. The board voted to hire Mr. Richmond.
Chairperson Roger Cabral explained that the board had already received and reviewed answers from questions they had put forth to the candidates, and during the meeting they would each answer the same four questions.
Mr. Cabral stated the four questions were from board members and would be asked by each individual Selectboard member in random order. Board members were not necessarily asking a question they contributed.
The candidates drew numbers for the order they would be interviewed. Mr. Cabral asked the first three-part question: What can we expect from you in the first six months? What organizational change, if any, would you be trying to implement? How would you try to reduce overtime cost, if any?
Selectboard member David Desroches asked how they felt about body cameras and dash cams. And Selectboard member Kevin Gaspar asked who they felt they would be first and foremost responsible to. Mr. Cabral also asked if they would like to add anything else.
The first to be interviewed, was Mr. Richmond. He said that he would like to add a firearms licensing officer who can also do administrative duties in organizational change. He admitted that the first six months for any of the candidates would be tough, with the hiring of five new part-time officers, a full time administrative assistant and two full time dispatchers.
Mr. Richmond stated that he would like to begin the conversation of having a second-in-command. He also stated it was important to retain the officers they had, using their strengths to move them forward in their careers.
When asked the body cam/dash camera question, Mr. Richmond stated it was a “hot button topic.” He said there were pros and cons. The biggest con was the cost and implementation. He said he would review what other monies need to be spent in the department first.
Mr. Richmond said most his responsibility, first and foremost, was definitely the community he serves. He said practically it was to the three Selectboard members, and the men and women of the department.
Mr. Richmond told the board that he has a 25-year career and was in front of the Acushnet Selectboard 15 years ago before they hired Chief Alves for the position. He said he took the words from his father to keep his nose to the grindstone and plow ahead. He said he would be proud to follow any of the qualified candidates he was up against, or to lead them.
Mr. Coppa was second to be interviewed, answering the same questions. He said in the next six months there would be a lot of moving parts, with hiring of officers and staff. He compared the hiring of new part-time officers to the minor league in baseball, saying that he would help them build up to a full-time career with the department. He said the first six months would be a learning curve.
In reference to the body cams, Mr. Coppa said that he thought there was value to both sides. In one aspect it could protect the officer but in another aspect it is costly to function and maintain. He said the town citizens are first and foremost who he would be responsible to.
Mr. Carreau echoed that the first six months would be busy with hiring new staff, dispatchers, new officers, a new administrative assistant and just in the stages of getting his feet wet.
He too agreed, that organizationally he would like to see a second-in-command to the Chief and would like to help facilitate that role. Mr. Carreau said it was a critical position to have, saying that going from Sargeant to Chief was quite the leap.
He stated he was in favor of body/ dash cams but the issue would be cost.
His responsibility, first and foremost, is to the citizens of Acushnet and his officers, said Mr. Carreau.
In closing, Mr. Carreau stated that more than half of the department averages five years or shorter and that he would be a great candidate to help mentor younger officers.
After the interviews with the three sergeants, Mr. Cabral explained that the Selectboard had agreed not to review the Civil Service Assessment review that came to them, that put the three candidates in a ranking order from first to last. He stated he wanted to get to know the candidates through the interview process and not be biased by the assessment.
“You all did pretty well,” Mr. Cabral added. “I’m sure the process was tense and competitive. Congratulations to all of you.”
Mr. Cabral stated the assessment ranked Mr. Richmond as first, and that he was his first choice.
Mr. Gaspar said he was proud of all three candidates and it was a very difficult decision for him as he knows them each personally. He thanked them for their professionalism and said he appreciated all their efforts. Mr. Gaspar concurred that Mr. Richmond was his recommendation.
Mr. Desroches agreed and stated that he knew running in his election that the Police Chief hire would be something he would have to take part in. He thanked all three candidates for their professionalism.
Mr. Gaspar reiterated that one of the common issues that came from the interviews was that all three stated they would like an open discussion for a second-in-command behind the Chief and that is something they should think about.
The Selectboard unanimously voted to hire Christopher Richmond as the new Acushnet Police Chief.
In other business, current and soon to be retiring Police Chief Alves was present to ask for a requisition in hiring five part-time police officers as well as requisition for hiring a sergeant The board voted to approve both requests.
Lastly, assessor Kelly Koska gave a presentation on the allocation of the local property tax. She stated that last year the Selectboard voted to keep it at 125% and she was asking for the same this year. The Selectboard members agreed.
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