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Select Board discusses process for acting, permanent chief

UPDATED: The town manager expected to appoint an acting police chief by next week and a permanent administrator in more than a year, but acting appointment came sooner than expected, on Jan. 9.

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Adam Chapdelaine had interviewed any current captain or lieutenant who is interested and from that pool plans to make a provisional promotion after Chief Fred Ryan retires on Sunday, Jan. 13. In a memo, the manager wrote that "it is an inarguable fact that he is leaving behind a substantial pair of shoes to fill."

In response to a question from Select Board member Diane Mahon on Monday, Jan. 7, he said he a provisional chief would the job "probably about a year or more."

Chapdelaine wrote in his Jan. 7 memo to the board: "It is of course possible that the Acting Chief could apply for and become the permanent Chief." Read the full memo >> 

Discussion about filling the position focused on Chapdelaine's recommendation that it be removed from Civil Service. Mahon opposes the move; the other three board members present generally support the manager. Joseph Curro Jr. was absent. 

Steps need Town Meeting, state approvals

Chapdelaine explained his recommendation, which requires Town Meeting approval, and after that, an OK from the Legislature.

He said removing the position from Civil Service would allow more flexibility in hiring as well as provide a deeper pool of candidates.

When we're through, "we want to know we have searched for the best," he said.

Civil Service would make it difficult to deal with a future chief, he said, noting that about 60 chiefs under the system remain in the state.

Civil Service affects all governmental administrative functions outside the armed services. It is a system of appointing government employees on the basis of competitive examinations, rather than by political patronage. In the U.S., it dates to 1871.

Mahon wants to keep position in Civil Service

In Arlington, the chief's position was previously called "director of police services." Before Ryan was hired, in 1999, Town Meeting affirmed its support for having the position under Civil Service. Chapdelaine said he foresees this spring's Town Meeting supporting his recommendation for removal.

Mahon disagreed. "I'm adamantly opposed to changing this," she said, adding that a "fiasco came out of this" in the late 1990s. "The town suffered as a community."

Supports Civil Service protection, she said she would move to seek that.

Clarissa Rowe, in her first meeting after she was appointed the fill the seat following Kevin Greeley's death in November, said she respectfully disagrees. She said the force will feel better if the choice is from a bigger pool rather than a smaller one.

John Hurd said he looked to hire from within. "I am not adamantly against it," referring to what Mahon seeks.

Manager seek to hire from within as well as the best

Chairman Dan Dunn expressed support for the manager's recommendation. He called Civil Service "hidebound" and needing reform. He said he respects its intentions.

Mahon offered a compromise, asking that Civil Service be retained on an open competitive basis.

"I want to hire from within," Chapdelaine said, but also hire the best and having a wider pool reaches that goal.

Mahon withdrew her motion and offered a new one -- no action to remove the position from Civil Service. On a 2-2, the motion failed.

Rowe made further comments supporting the manager's recommendation. She noted Mahon's long service, since 1999, and acknowleged "many lessons" over that time. She said the current board and town officials reflect a different climate now. "It's not what I have seen in the past," she said, calling the current era "a vast improvement."

The issue is expected to be on Jan. 23 agenda.

Magnolia safety, opioid donation

In other business, the board voted, 4-0, to:

-- Approve the Transportation Advisory Committee recommendations to establish a speed Ssfety Zone on Herbert Road at the entrance to Magnolia Park. Howard Muise, TAC chair, said the group is looking at updating an earlier study for such a safety zone at the entrance to Menotomy Rocks.

-- Accept a private donation of $20,000 from PhRMA for opioid-abuse prevention.

-- Approve a special (one-day) all-alcohol license, 1/26/19 at Arlington Town Hall for 'Thompson School Parent Dance,' Ann Moore/Don May, Thompson School PTO.

-- Appoint to the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee (terms to expire Jan. 31, 2022), Muris Kobaslija and Doug Mayo-Wells. 

Dec. 11, 2018: Police Chief Ryan retiring to private sector after leading force since '99

Town manager's statement, Dec. 11, 2018
Globe, Dec. 11, 2018: Arlington police chief to retire
July 10, 2015: OPIOIDS: Police chief among 3 authors of U.S. standards for care
March 25, 2016: Defaced 'black lives matter' banner gets Holy Week repair
May 5, 2018: SLURS: Police report reveals some facts, a source some others
Nov. 7, 2018: Town takes issue with on-leave officer 'seriously,' manager says

This news summary was published Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, and updated the same day, as an acting chief was named. 

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