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Police chief interviews to start soon

RINDGE — The town of Rindge is closing in on a final candidate for its chief of police job, after former Chief Frank Morrill officially retired at the end of April.

The town has been using Municipal Resources Inc., a company that provides professional, technical, and managerial support services to towns and assists with job searches, to both conduct a search for the new police chief and to provide coverage of the position. Since Morrill stepped down, MRI employee Mike French, a former police chief, has been acting as interim manager for the Police Department.

The Select Board received close to 40 applicants for the open position by its May 15 deadline, according to Town Administrator Jane Pitt. That number has been narrowed down to a top four to six candidates, whom the board will begin to interview during the week of July 28.

“We were hoping it would be a 90-day process, and we’re pretty close to that,” said Pitt in an interview Monday. “I would expect, unless there are two or so top candidates that are very close, that the board would make a fairly quick decision following [the interviews].”

The board may decide to do a second round of interviews, should there be more than one clear candidate for the position, Pitt said.

Select Board Chair Roberta Oeser said Monday that she would be looking for a chief who has supervisory experience and administrative experience or a budgeting background. Additionally, she said, someone from a larger police department, who has had experience with a variety of police issues would also be a plus. Oeser said the board is expecting to receive resumes and backgrounds of the final candidates selected by MRI this week, in order to form questions for the interview process at the end of the month. Currently, she said, she does not have any information about the pool of candidates the board will be reviewing.

“I trust MRI to do a thorough assessment, and I hope we have really good candidates,” said Oeser in a phone interview. “All we need is one.”

Pitt said French has stepped into several roles that had been handled by Morrill, including attending Rindge Crime Watch and Franklin Pierce University Town and Gown Committee meetings as a liaison. “With respect to some of the community activities that used to be handled by Frank [Morrill], the Police Department hasn’t skipped a beat,” she said.

Oeser said that the new chief will be expected to take a role in the Town and Gown Committee, as it has a specific makeup that includes the chief of police, but may choose to select a regular liaison officer to Rindge Crime Watch.

At the time of his resignation, Morrill expressed an interest in remaining with the department as a part-time patrol officer, and assisting in maintaining the current relationships the Police Department shares with its community partners. He has since withdrawn that interest, said Pitt, and is no longer with the department in any capacity.

However, Morrill has not left police work entirely. He is currently employed as a part-time patrol officer with the Bennington Police Department, and has been for about a month, said Bennington Police Chief Steve Campbell in a phone interview Monday.

Department updates

During French’s tenure in Rindge, the Select Board requested that he look into the Police Department management, and compile a report of ways to streamline the department where possible and update it as needed.

French has not submitted his final report, according to Oeser, but the Select Board anticipates receiving it before French leaves the position. Among the issues that French has identified are a need for updates of outdated technology within the department. He has also already implemented some updated procedures, according to Oeser.

One process changed by French is how the department trains its officers. In the past, officers were given overtime pay for training done, in addition to their regular workweek. Now, said Oeser, the officers will train during their regular hours, and their police duties will be covered by the department’s part-time staff. The change should reduce the amount of overtime and allow time and funds for more frequent regular trainings.

Also updated were the procedures for handling evidence, particularly disposing of old evidence, said Oeser.

Other recommendations will be handed off to the police chief candidates, so they are aware of issues they will be taking on, if selected for the position, said Oeser.

The Police Department underwent a similar study in 2000, said Oeser, but not much was ever done with the information. Oeser said the Select Board hopes hiring a new chief will provide an opportunity to start implementing some of French’s recommendations.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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