'More transparency': Outside applicants to be considered for York police chief job

·3 min read

YORK, Maine – If you're a highly qualified law enforcement professional prepared to lead the York Police Department, it's time to polish your resume.

York Town Manager Steve Burns said Wednesday, Jan. 12, that applicants from outside YPD will be considered as the town begins the process of hiring a new police chief. The decision is part of an effort to be transparent about the process, Burns said.

The town still needs to figure out what the process will look like for receiving applications, Burns said. The position may be filled in April, though that timeline is optimistic, he added.

Local mandate: York adopts COVID vaccine requirement for town employees. Supreme Court ruling awaited.

Burns said the hiring process was completed internally when former YPD Chief Charles Szeniawski was hired in 2019. Szeniawski announced his retirement in September after spending nearly two and a half months on paid administrative leave. Burns has declined to comment on his reasons for placing Szeniawski on leave, citing a need for confidentiality in what he described as "an HR issue."

In this 2019 file photo, York Police Chief Charles Szeniawski receives his chief's pins from his wife, Mary-Anne Szeniawski, during a change of command ceremony at a York Board of Selectmen meeting as recently retired police chief Douglas Bracy looks on. Szeniawski retired in 2021 after nearly two and a half months on paid administrative leave.
In this 2019 file photo, York Police Chief Charles Szeniawski receives his chief's pins from his wife, Mary-Anne Szeniawski, during a change of command ceremony at a York Board of Selectmen meeting as recently retired police chief Douglas Bracy looks on. Szeniawski retired in 2021 after nearly two and a half months on paid administrative leave.

Burns named Owen Davis as acting police chief to lead YPD since Szeniawski's leave began.

Burns said he made the decision to open up the hiring process this time around after conferring with the Board of Selectmen on Monday during executive session.

Who will be hired and how?: York beginning to weigh options to fill police chief job

Although Burns said he has authority under the town charter to decide what the hiring process looks like, the board ultimately needs to affirm all department heads.

“I think in the post-George Floyd era, there's an expectation of more transparency," Burns said. "And that's why I asked the selectmen if they would prefer that … I think they would, and we're gonna go down that path."

Floyd died in May 2020 after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground with his knee for nearly nine minutes. Floyd’s death sparked widespread protests, including in York, and Chauvin was ultimately found guilty of Floyd's murder.

No inside track for acting chief

If Davis wants to drop the "acting" from his "police chief" title, then he would need to apply for the job like anyone else, Burns said.

“I think Owen is a great candidate for the position … he's going to have to compete for it,” Burns said.

Davis did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

'Big new chapter': Old York Historical Society buys former church, plans to move collections back to York

Burns said he will look for a police chief who will be a good fit for the town.

“The biggest thing is how is somebody going to fit in here … Are you looking for a change agent or you're looking to sustain the patterns you've got? Somebody with enough policy insight to understand the context of the world,” Burns said. “Policing in this day and age isn’t what it was 10 years ago … somebody that’s savvy enough to get that and know how to manage an organization through the current political realm.” ​​

No link to recent settlement

Burns said Szeniawski's leave and departure are completely unrelated to a 2019 traffic stop involving a York patrolman and pediatrician Stephen Brennan, who recently won a $325,000 settlement from the town after he was injured by a police K-9 during the stop.

Pediatrician snags settlement: York pays $325K over police dog use during minor traffic stop

Szeniawski received a $50,000 payout under the terms of a severance agreement with the town. The agreement set limits on what Szeniawski and town officials can say about each other and prohibits Szeniawski and the town from discussing or disclosing the agreement to anyone else, unless required by law.

Throughout his time on leave and after his retirement was announced, Szeniawski did not respond to requests for comment.

Szeniawski, who had been employed by YPD for 41 years, earned about $133,000 per year, Burns said.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: York ME to consider outside applicants for police chief job

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting