New Sunderland chief a fan of community policing

  • New Sunderland Police Chief Erik Demetropoulos, who began his job last week, at work in the town’s safety complex. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • New Sunderland Police Chief Erik Demetropoulos at the Sunderland Safety complex. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

For the Gazette
Thursday, September 08, 2016

SUNDERLAND — There’s a new police chief in town: former Barre police chief Erik Demetropoulos.

“I think this is a great new beginning,” Demetropoulos said late last week, after a few days in the chief’s chair. “I love my job.”

Demetropoulos took the reins of Sunderland’s police force Aug. 29 under a two-year, $70,000-per-year contract.

Demetropoulos is a former U.S. Marine and served as Barre’s police chief for nine years. With his wife, Stacie, he has two daughters.

“I’m confident in the value the town is getting,” said Select Board member Scott Bergeron during a recent meeting at which all three members voted to hire the new chief.

Bergeron, who spoke on behalf of the town in negotiations with the new chief, said the contract, which Demetropoulos signed during the meeting, has been reviewed by the town counsel and approved by a representative of the Chiefs of Police Association.

“Hiring people in the public sector is a difficult thing to do because of the process,” Select Board Chairman Thomas Fydenkevez said to Demetropoulos during the meeting. “We’re very proud that you took the time to come and work for us, and join our family.”

All three board members, including the third, David Pierce, said they believe Demetropoulos is the right man for the job and expressed confidence in his ability to perform as chief.

The town has been searching for a new chief since Jeffrey Gilbert retired at the beginning of this year. In the months following, a search committee narrowed the search to three candidates.

In July, board members offered the position to one of those candidates, Shutesbury Chief of Police Thomas Harding. However, the town and Harding could not come to an agreement, negotiations fell through and Harding turned down the job.

The third candidate was Monson Police Sgt. Jane Jalbert. After Harding turned down the position, board members turned to Demetropoulos. At that time, Fydenkevez assured the public that the former Barre chief is not less qualified for the position than Harding, and came “highly recommended to us from the search committee.”

In March, Demetropoulos was voted out of Barre by the town’s Select Board in large part, because board members said he was too nice to take control of the department.

Since Gilbert’s retirement, police Sgt. Brendan Lyons has been leading the department. During the board meeting, Demetropoulos praised Lyon’s leadership, and said he is excited to get to work.

Going forward, Demetropoulos said he’d like to maintain the department’s good relationship with town residents, and expand outreach to local schools.

“If you can build positive relationships with kids, if you can do that, it’s gonna flourish,” he said about community policing.

He said he’s excited about continuing outreach programs in this community.

As far as challenges posed by the new job, Demetropoulos said he has to learn the geography of the area and how the department operates.

“You guys should feel very blessed to have a competent sergeant, and I think it’s going to be an amazing relationship,” Demetropoulos said to Select Board members about working for the town.

The Sunderland Police Department has six part-time staff positions and five full-time employees, including the chief.