Groton Police Chief Donald Palma talks about the September murders in Groton during a Nashoba Chambers of Commerce event in January. Palma, who has not
Groton Police Chief Donald Palma talks about the September murders in Groton during a Nashoba Chambers of Commerce event in January. Palma, who has not made public his reasons for leaving, was praised by town leaders Wednesday. SUN FILE PHOTO

By Rick Sobey and Mina Corpuz

GROTON -- Police Chief Donald Palma "abruptly retired" Tuesday, after leading the department since 2007, Selectmen Chairman Joshua Degen said Wednesday.

Palma had been eligible to retire for a few years, but officials were surprised to learn Tuesday that he delivered his retirement papers in the midst of his current contract.

His retirement will be effective May 28.

"He was the best police chief I have ever worked with," Town Manager Mark Haddad said Wednesday. "He did everything he could do for the town and the department."

Degen also showered the chief with praise on Wednesday -- describing his "tremendous leadership skills" and uniting the department over the years -- but town officials are puzzled by Palma's announcement.

"We're trying to get to the root of the underlying reasons that triggered his early retirement in the midst of a contract," Degen said.

Haddad said Palma's contract was set to expire in June 2019. A clause in it allowed Palma to retire if he gave 90 days notice, Haddad said.

Degen added that town officials plan to negotiate with Palma on rescinding his decision to retire. They would like him to complete his current contract. The Sun reported in July 2016 that Palma's salary was $137,000.


Palma was unavailable for comment all day Wednesday, and he was not home when a reporter stopped by late Wednesday afternoon.

Haddad said his office will start the search for Palma's successor.

Depending on how long the process takes, he said the Board of Selectmen could consider making Deputy Chief James Cullen interim chief of the department.

Last month, Palma gave a talk called "Anatomy of a Homicide" at the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce's annual breakfast. This talk came in the wake of last year's quadruple murder in town, the first homicide Palma ever worked in his career.

In 2007, Palma was selected as the new chief out of more than 60 applicants.

He began his career with the Littleton Police Department in 1975 and moved to the Acton Police Department in 1990, following two years of working for a security start-up called Spectaguard Inc. in Worcester as director of security.

In Acton, he worked his way up from a patrol and traffic officer to a sergeant and then to a lieutenant.

Palma, a Concord native, succeeded Chief Robert Mulhern. When Palma took over, he described himself as a hands-on leader who also values the opinions of his subordinates.

"The department has been operating as one big team working collaboratively together," Degen said.

"It has been a pleasure working in conjunction with him as Groton's needs have been met and exceeded by his professionalism," the selectman added about the chief.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.