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

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 in mid-May.

Degen 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.

He 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.

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.


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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.

Palma could not be reached for comment early Wednesday morning.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.