Diversity, professionalism among priorities raised at police search forum

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Julie Manganis, The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.
·3 min read
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Apr. 8—MARBLEHEAD — Marblehead residents want their police chief to have a sense of community and the qualities of integrity and honesty, according to a survey conducted by the screening committee working to replace retiring Chief Robert Picariello.

But some of those who responded to a survey and took part in a forum on Tuesday evening also want the next chief to be aware of aspects of the community that are not as positive, including a lack of diversity and a belief that some residents are "entitled."

"Civil rights and equality are things we need to look at," suggested Anne Stevenson, a lawyer who works with mentally ill and disabled clients for the state's public defender agency.

The town is working with retired Arlington police chief Fred Ryan of Ryan Strategies Group, who took questions and comments for about 45 minutes Tuesday in a session conducted on Zoom.

The public input, said Ryan, is "a real critical element" of the process.

Stevenson asked about whether there is a role in the process both for defense lawyers like herself as well as from rank and file officers.

Judy Gates, a resident of the town since 1966, said she would like to see more interaction with police, recalling bicycle patrols.

She also said she would like to see police work to make students attending Marblehead schools through the METCO program feel comfortable in town and wants the new chief to work on "building a feeling of inclusiveness and diversity" in town.

Ryan said one of the priorities of the screening committee is to make sure any candidates know that the "community gets to decide how it gets policed, not the new police chief."

Jim Zisson asked about the size of the available "talent pool." Ryan, whose firm is also assisting the city of Salem in its search for a new police chief — the city's first from outside the department — said finding candidates has been more difficult.

"Given the climate in policing, particularly at the executive level of policing, the recruitment and hiring of police chiefs has been challenging," said Ryan.

Besides the emergence of a police reform movement calling on public safety officials to reassess their roles in the community, the collective bargaining process and other labor issues have been cited by some potential and retiring police chiefs, he said.

Ryan said during the forum he has been working to recruit women and minority candidates.

In Marblehead's case, he's also touting the scenic beauty and quality of life in the town.

Applications for the position are due by April 20. After that, the screening committee, which includes Town Administrator Jason Silva, the town's fire chief, a police captain and several others, will review the applicants and narrow the field before working with Ryan to set up an assessment center.

That assessment will involve a daylong series of challenges based on actual situations a chief might experience, Ryan said.

The final three candidates will be recommended to the Board of Selectmen by the end of May, Silva said.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.