Sunderland board split on police chief

  • The Sunderland Board of Selectmen voted Tuesday on whether to move forward in negotiations with current Shutesbury Chief of Police Tom Harding. The motion passed by a two-thirds majority. RECORDER STAFF/ANDY CASTILLO

For the Gazette
Tuesday, June 07, 2016

SUNDERLAND — After months of searching and deliberation by local officials, the town may soon have a new police chief.

The Select Board last week voted 2-1 to move forward with Shutesbury Police Chief Thomas Harding.

Scott Bergeron and Thomas Fydenkevez voted in favor, while David Pierce voted against negotiating with Harding.

Bergeron will represent the board during negotiations with Harding. Sunderland Town Administrator Sherry Patch said depending on the outcome of those negotiations, Harding would be offered the position.

Monson Police Sgt. Jane Jalbert and Barre Police Chief Erik Demotropoulos were also considered.

The board debated the pros and cons of each candidate. A motion to enter negotiations with Demotropoulos failed by a 2-1 vote.

Discussion centered around the importance of community policing, managing a budget and the chief’s role in the community.

“When I look at Chief Harding,” said Fydenkevez, “there are a couple of things that stand out. He’s a small town chief, he’s used to juggling scheduling issues.

“I don’t know that we can make a bad choice, there’s just so many strong points on all three candidates,” Fydenkevez added.

Former Police Chief Jeffrey Gilbert retired at the beginning of the year, and Sgt. Brendan Lyons has been the officer in charge since then.

Soon after Gilbert left, a search committee was formed. Patch said the committee was instructed to recommend at least three candidates to the Select Board, which interviewed the finalists.

Knowledge of Massachusetts law, personal integrity and a focus on community policing were included in the job requirements.

The Sunderland Police Department has six part-time staff positions and five full-time employees, including the chief. All are appointed annually by the Select Board. In 2015, the department received more than 1,500 calls for assistance.