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Dunstable Police Chief James Downes III, left, will be replaced in the interim by Lt. James Dow, center.

By Chris Lisinski

DUNSTABLE — Dunstable Police Chief James Downes III will soon wave goodbye to the department after more than 30 years on the force.

Downes, who has been with Dunstable since 1984 and spent the past 15-plus years as chief, will retire at the end of the month. Lt. James Dow, who himself started in Dunstable in 1989, will take over as interim chief for an unspecified amount of time while the Board of Selectmen determines the next step.

“I thank you for this opportunity to humbly serve you for nearly 33 years and allowing me to feel as though Dunstable was my home,” Downes wrote in a statement. “I will always fondly remember and appreciate Dunstable and its residents as I prepare to continue to serve in another role.”

In his statement, Downes said he was proud of a number of accomplishments, including the growth of professional relationships with other law-enforcement agencies and the department’s success in achieving professional certification status, which Downes said fewer than one in five departments attain.

He also said his officers now carry epinephrine and Narcan and are trained to handle a variety of factors when responding to calls, from mental illness to substance abuse.

“He’ll be missed by the community,” said Town Administrator Tracey Hutton. “Because he was here for so long, he was well-respected. I think the community will definitely miss him in that role.”

The chief is currently on vacation, but after he returns, he will work up until Aug. 31, when his retirement will go into effect. Dunstable’s Board of Selectmen voted last month to appoint Dow as the interim chief starting on Sept. 1, though a contract has not yet been finalized.

The Board of Selectmen will buy back 300 hours of sick time from Downes at a total cost of about $15,000, according to minutes from the July 27 meeting. There is no exact end date set for the interim chief, according to Hutton.

“Do they want to promote from within, do they want to post the job — they’re taking some time to think about that, and they’ll be checking in with the interim chief periodically,” Hutton said.

Dow started as an officer with Dunstable in 1989, and he has served as lieutenant for the past 14 years. He said he is eager to take the next step as interim chief, and if given the chance, he would “absolutely” want to take over in a full-time capacity.

However, Dow acknowledged that replacing the man he calls his mentor will be a “daunting” task.

“(Downes) brought the organization from three people to what we are now, which is a full-time staff of eight,” Dow said. “He’s brought us contemporary policies and procedures. He’s brought us a lot of training. He’s allowed us to be pretty independent in anything we need to investigate. He’s created the organization to be very professional and made it officer-skill-driven … His shoes are not easy to fill, by myself or any other candidate.”

When Dow takes over as interim chief, he wants to help the department become officially accredited — which he said is the next step beyond the certification Downes received — and oversee the push for a new facility.

The police and fire departments are both in need of space, so Dow said the two could combine their efforts.

“Our current fire department is really antiquated and really old, and it definitely needs some severe rehab, which I don’t think is cost-effective,” he said. “We are a little better, but we are definitely bursting at the seams for space in terms of storage, offices, contemporary things that police need.”

Follow Chris on Twitter and Tout @ChrisLisinski.

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