A saga that has spanned two mayoral administrations in Chicopee, Massachusetts ended Thursday with the appointment of a new police chief. The new chief will have to run a department that a consultant found to be plagued by internal divisions.
Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos announced the appointment of William Jebb as the city’s new police chief. Jebb was immediately sworn-in. Minutes later it was announced that Jebb’s rival for the job, acting chief Thomas Charette, had announced his immediate retirement.
Jebb, a 27- year veteran of the Chicopee Police Department, addressed an audience of about 100 people at Chicopee City Hall. He thanked his family, and others, who had supported him during his two-year quest to become chief.
"Public safety is paramount and I am going to work diligently to put my best efforts forward. I know the men and women of the Chicopee Police Department are up to the challenge," said Jebb.
Among those in the audience was John Ferraro, whose abrupt retirement as Chicopee’s top cop in June 2012 touched off the saga.
Charette, who became acting-chief when Ferraro retired was appointed permanent chief in June 2013 by then-mayor Michael Bissonette. But the appointment was vacated last March by the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission. The commission ruled that Jebb, who scored highest on an examination for chief, was wrongly passed over for promotion because of personal and political bias on the part of Bissonnette.
A state judge earlier this week rejected a request by Charette to block the appointment of a new chief over questions about whether Jebb met a residency requirement in the city charter.
Jebb conceded the controversy has hurt morale in the police department.
"There was a lot of drama involved. I have a tough task at this point in time, but I am up to the challenge. We have a great group of officers who unfortunately were involved in the competitive process between Tom Charette and I. But now that is over and we are going to move forward."
Jebb planned to address each roll-call of police officers reporting for duty on his first full day as chief.
Kos said he interviewed five candidates for police chief and had no reservations about appointing Jebb.
"Part of this process is getting someone you have the most faith in to move this city forward."
Kos said he expects Jebb will address the issues raised in a report by a consultant who was hired by Bissonette to look into allegations of thwarted internal investigations and lax discipline. The report, which came out in December, said there was a deep divide between the supporters of Jebb for chief and the supporters of Charette.
"I know the police department I worked with in the past and anticipate working with in the future is going to be focused on public safety and serving the city of Chicopee and its residents. I can assure you they will maintain their focus in that regard,"said Kos.
Jebb said he plans to contact the chiefs of neighboring communities to discuss mutual concerns, such as the heroin addiction crisis.
A new police commissioner in Springfield, John Barbieri, took over June 1st. Holyoke Police Chief James Neiswanger signed a three year contract extension last week. He has been chief in Holyoke since 2011.