GROTON -- Deputy Police Chief James Cullen began Tuesday as the head of the department during the search for a new police chief.

Cullen joined the Groton police in 1999 and was appointed the town's first deputy chief in 2015.

Former chief Donald Palma, who lead the department more than a decade, retired Monday. On his last day, he marched with the police department in the town's Memorial Day and rode in a white carriage.

"His leadership and dedicated to the people of Groton has made our department exceptional," Groton Police posted on Facebook Tuesday.

Police also lauded Palma's common-sense approach and way he valued members of the department.

Palma announced plans to retire in February, about a year before his contract was expected to end.

About 40 candidates from around the Commonwealth and New England applied for the police chief position, said Town Manager Mark Haddad.

A seven-member search committee interviewed the applicants and narrowed the group down to five, Haddad said.

Those semifinalists will interview before a panel of area police chiefs and Groton department heads starting next week.

The goal is to advance two or more finalists to the Select Board on June 7, Haddad said.

A week later, finalists will participate in public interviews with the board and an assessment center, which tests candidates through simulation exercises and oral and written exams.

Haddad hopes that the board will appoint the next chief at its June 18 meeting.


"(Palma) served his department and he left it in great shape and condition for the next chief," Haddad said.

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