PEPPERELL — Selectmen have offered and police Lt. David Scott has agreed to enter into contract negotiations to appoint him as interim police chief in light of the March 12 retirement of Police Chief Alan Davis.
Scott’s interest in the job comes with wholehearted endorsement by Davis however selectmen did not move beyond an interim offer last week.
Closed door negotiations between the parties took place the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 24.
In his letter of recommendation, Davis wrote that Scott was raised in Pepperell, is a North Middlesex Regional School District graduate and began his police career more than 20 years ago as an auxiliary officer.
“He has served in his current capacity of Lieutenant since 2005 and has been designated ‘Officer-in-Charge’ during my absences,” Davis wrote. “(He) has the experience, education and training to assume the position of police chief and is dedicated and committed to moving the department forward and maintaining the professionalism I have expected throughout the years.”
An “excellent endorsement,” Selectman chairman Joseph Sergi noted, asking if Scott would be interested in the interim position.
“Interim and beyond if chosen,” Scott answered. “I offer any combination of quality and professionalism.”
As a lieutenant, Scott supervises four sergeants, nine patrol officers and one detective, oversees all investigations and prosecutions, acts as training coordinator, computer systems manager, internal affairs investigator and certification manager.
He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in criminal justice and criminology. He has a graduate certificate in criminal justice leadership and policy development as well as in forensic criminology.
Recently Scott has rewritten the department directive manual, implemented performance evaluations, created and analyzed an internal survey to improve function and communication and assisted with several phases of school safety.
He has been commanding officer during major incidents, including those of regional North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council call-outs. He has participated in multi-agency investigations that resulted in seizure of thousands of dollars worth of drugs, weapons and contraband, been involved in the sergeant promotion process, created a reserve/auxiliary liaison position and is responsible for changes currently in progress.
“What can we expect during this period regarding leadership and so folks who look at the chief as the protector of the community can expect?” Sergi asked. “It is clear (your promotion) will save people dollars, but more important is operational, leadership, policing and safety.”
Scott said he’s learned from Davis.
“He’s excellent and I expect more of the same. I’d like to invest more into officers we have with training (because) instead of shifts with three or four, there are two. Unfortunately there is a dollar figure attached,” he said.
Scott said he has begun acquiring reserve officers and bringing auxiliary officers up to speed because the town may lose officers in the future.
“When I was on (the auxiliary) in the 80’s it was more of a teaching thing but that went away. I’d like a return,” Scott said.
Asked what he sees as major issues, Scott said manpower and money.
“We lost a community policing grant last year. We’ll have to find a way to keep that going,” he said.
Sergi asked for an assessment of the effect of layoffs on the ability to police.
“We lost more of our ability to do community policing, for example, riding a bicycle on Main Street. We’re as low as we can possibly go with three officers and one sergeant per shift,” Scott said.
“I want four supervisors, one on each shift. The only extra person who can do that is the detective. The amount of work he (Detective Bill Greathead) puts in is unbelievable,” he said.
“I am the person to lead the department, especially with the last five years of learning,” Scott said. “I didn’t have grand visions of being chief when I started as patrolman, then sergeant. I wanted to handle things on my own. I can joggle the budget and manpower, and hopefully can do what’s best.”
Selectman Patrick McNabb asked if response time has increased with the department down two officers and if it is on the brink.
“Things are okay right now,” Scott said. “We lost an extra body on the evening shift with a bad accident. You need one if not two there. Sometimes you need to prioritize.î
McNabb asked what Scott, now being the boss, would do as first steps.
“Get my feet wet,” Scott answered. “That was somewhat made when I became lieutenant. I think if you polled the department I’d be (lauded) for administration and control. The first 30 to 60 days there’ll be a big learning curve. If there’s money, I’d like to replace (secretary) Cathy Forrest who retires in August. Beyond that, I’d see the lieutenant replaced and if there’s money, a sergeant.”
Selectman Joseph Hallisey told Scott, “You’ve got a ringing endorsement from the guy whose shoes you’d fill. At first I was concerned about your desire to pursue it. I’m glad to hear (your responses).
“It’s an impressive resume that answers all the right things. My main concern is dollars and service,” Hallisey said. “Pepperell is not a small town. I’m concerned about two guys (on a shift). You’re in for trouble. It looks as if you’re prepared.”
McNabb said it is “appropriate” that Scott steps in as interim to get his feet wet.
“A lot of people know Lt. Scott. He grew up here,” McNabb said.