Board of Selectmen
October 7, 2010
Community Hall Annex
Present: Joseph R. Becker, Vice-Chairman, Cherilyn A. Bulger, Michael S. Pantos, Clerk, and Nancy M. Macaruso, Secretary. Leroy C. Clark was absent. Sheila H. Dibb, Chairman arrived at 6:40 pm.
Mr. Becker opened the meeting at 6:10 pm. The Board discussed/reviewed/formatted questions they formulated separately in preparation for the police chief candidates’ second interviews taking place at 7 pm and 8 pm tonight. Mr. Clark passed his questions along via telephone conference call.
Mr. Pantos moved to recess until 7 pm. Ms. Bulger seconded. Vote unanimous.
Meeting out of recess at 7 pm.
7 pm – Donald Haapakoski
Mr. Haapakoski stated that his strengths are that he is a good listener, demands integrity and is ethical and moral; weaknesses are that he sometimes works too much and at times sets goals too high as he is somewhat of a perfectionist. Ms. Bulger questioned him on his experience with social service agencies to which he stated that he has much experience with these agencies. Different scenarios/situations were presented and Chief Haapakoski explained how he would handle each one. He did state that in the case of a mutual aid call with only one officer on, that he would never leave the town without coverage. He expects his officers to use their “down” time in productive ways such as patrolling and paperwork. He would check officer log sheets when he returns from time off and do occasional
unexpected checks when he is not on duty. He would move radar traps around to different parts of town and would like to see officers out of their vehicles more in public. He would utilize the part-timers more so that each shift had two officers on duty. He explained a low point in his career dealt with an incident regarding the court system not seeing something the same way he did. The most challenging was when he negotiated successfully with a Viet Nam veteran who fired his weapon toward police. Mrs. Dibb stated that she “googled” him and requested an explanation of a road rage incident listed with his name to which he summarized the event. He informed that the crimes here would probably be typical of any town and stated that community policing (visibility) would greatly curtail criminal activity. He stated that he does not socialize with his officers; keeps a professional balance. As far as the Animal Control Officer, he would
assist when needed. He regrets how an incident in Ayer played out regarding his resignation and feels it could have been handled differently. Chief Haapakoski let the Board know that he has extensive experience in writing and acquiring grants. He is familiar with the PILOT program at Devereux School and stated honestly that he did not know a lot about the school. With the aging fleet, he would perform regular maintenance and do the best with what he has. He would do as much as possible in-house and split the work load between the two sergeants and make sure they were both comfortable taking over at any given time. He would use each patrolman’s strengths; and get the part-time officers the best training within the budget. He would handle resident complaints regarding officers the same way he would handle criminal cases – interview both sides to garner the facts. He did say that what the public sometimes perceives as excessive force is
commonly standard procedure. He would use progressive discipline when warranted. Infractions would remain in officers’ files for different lengths of time depending on the violation. Chief Happkoski’s interview ended at 8 pm. Mr. Becker moved to recess for two minutes. Mr. Pantos seconded. Vote unanimous.
8 pm – John Agnew
Ms. Bulger questioned Sgt. Agnew on his experience with social service agencies to which he replied that he has significant experience with these types of agencies, sometimes on a daily basis. Mr. Agnew replied to Mr. Becker’s question regarding the take over by the state police in Spencer. He was one of two that remained employed there and he was very involved in the rebuilding of the department which now employees 17 officers and is a well respected department. He has been the acting chief in the absence of the police chief. He did not apply for the chief’s position at the time because he felt he was too young, did not feel up to it and did not want to burn out at an early age like he has seen others do. He stated that his management style was one of fairness with treating everyone equally. Feels his people skills are superior, as well as his honesty and reliability. His weaknesses would be that he takes on too much and gets wrapped up in working too many hours. His most
challenging events would be the dismantling of the Spencer Police Department and the deaths of kids and/or friends. He expects the crime in Rutland to be similar to that of any other town. Very strong advocate for police visibility in public; would have officers out on the roads rather than behind desks and he would do the same. Mrs. Dibb stated that nothing came up when she “googled” his name. He stated that he does not socialize with officers and keeps things on a professional basis and that his relationship with subordinates is very good. Regarding the question posed on the only officer on duty getting a mutual aid call, he stated that he would: (a) go to the call himself, (b) cue the off-duty officers or (c) have someone on call. He stated that if the call was life threatening to the officer requesting mutual aid, he would recommend the officer answer the call, but must notify the supervisor or the on-call officer. Asked if he
would apply for the chief’s job in Spencer if the opportunity arose and replied that he would not. He would encourage interaction between officers and school children and elderly such as having lunch with them occasionally. He would like to see more community policing in the department. He would like to increase the department as population increases. He would take care of the fleet he has and would work with that if money was not available for replacements. He would like to see at least one full-timer on every shift and supplementing with part-timers, but their duties would be the same. He would use radar for speed enforcement. As far as the department’s behavior when he is not on duty, he would stop in unannounced to check on things periodically. Regarding the Devereux School, he does not see it as a problem and he feels that officers should stop in to visit rather than just answering calls there. He would assist the Animal
Control Officer when needed. Lowest point in his career was the dismantling of the Spencer Police Department. He could have left, but is glad he stayed. Has experience with unions and contracts as well as with grant preparation. Does not feel that running more than one department would be an issue; it may just have to be set up differently such as sector patrols. When excessive/unnecessary force is alleged against an officer, there are two sides to every story and would investigate as such. He also stated that what is perceived as excessive force may be protocol. As far as written discipline remaining in officer’s files, he would keep them for different lengths of time depending on the infraction – very gray area. The interview ended at 9 pm.
Chairman Dibb asked the Board members if they could make a decision now to which Mr. Becker and Ms. Bulger stated that they could, but Mrs. Dibb and Mr. Pantos needed some more time. Mrs. Dibb will request background checks on both candidates and will email the contract to all members when she receives it. An executive session will be added to the end of the Selectmen’s meeting on the 18th for this purpose.
Mr. Pantos moved to adjourn. Mr. Becker seconded. Vote unanimous. Meeting ended at 9:10 pm.
Nancy M. Macaruso, Secretary