The Select Board in Hinsdale, Massachusetts has hired a temporary police chief to fill the role left vacant by embattled Chief Nancy Daniels.
Wednesday’s meeting drew an even larger crowd than normal in the town of nearly 2,000, forcing the Select Board to move the gathering to the school gym next door. The rowdy crowd of more than 100 expressed its displeasure with the hiring of former Pittsfield police officer Charles Bassett by a 2 to 1 vote from the board.
“I’m not trying to take somebody’s job,” Bassett said. “Obviously I’m here to try to replace somebody, but I’m not going to want this job permanently. I’ll just take it for a few months and I should go on my way.”
Select Chair Bonnie Conner says she reached out to state police and nearby departments to see if they knew of anyone who could fill the spot on a temporary basis.
“Actually I had like six of them [candidates],” Conner said. “Three of them did not want to deal with the town of Hinsdale.”
Bassett presented his credentials at the meeting, noting his service with the U.S. Navy, the Pittsfield Fire Department from 1980 to 1986 and the city’s police force from then until he retired in 2011.Conner says Bassett will be sworn in immediately and is to be paid on an hourly basis using $10,000 built into the town’s police budget. So what’s Bassett’s reaction to the meetings defined by anger directed at the board answered by gavel-pounding?
“It’s a lot different than the Pittsfield city council meetings,” Bassett said. “But, I’ll be able to handle it.”
Conner says Bassett was brought on because he can provide coverage residents have asked for such as the qualifications to issue LTCs. The board placed Daniels on paid administrative leave in November because she hasn’t completed the Municipal Police Training Academy needed to be a full-time officer.
Daniels cites a hysterectomy and a subsequent ankle injury as reasons for why she hasn’t been able to complete the academy. A 13-year veteran of the force, Daniels was hired as chief in January 2013 and was granted a 270-day wavier to serve full-time without the training. It has since expired.
Conner sent a letter to the MPTC requesting an extension of the waiver, but omitted the reasons why Daniels did not complete the training. Conner says she did not feel comfortable discussing another person’s health issues. The request was denied.
Last week, Daniels and her attorney asked the board to write another letter asking for a new waiver, this time including Daniel’s health issues. Before writing a letter, Conner said she would consult with Daniels and review the minutes from the Dec. 18 MPTC meeting attended by Daniels and Selectman Bruce Marshall.
“I see no reason to make an application for a waiver,” said Conner during the meeting.
According to minutes, the committee’s primary concern was Daniels’ lack of action to enter an academy. The minutes state Daniels needs to resolve her issues with the town of Hinsdale before the committee can revisit its earlier decision. After Conner said a request for another waiver would not be sent out, a person from the crowd threw a water bottle at the Select Board.
That person was gently escorted out. In a letter presented at last week’s meeting, the town’s five part-time officers asked the board to reinstate Daniels. Daniels has said Conner has a vendetta against her.
“Chairwoman Conner has an agenda with me,” Daniels said. “She’s had an agenda with me since day one when she came in.”
“I don’t know Nancy Daniels, I don’t bother Nancy Daniels!” exclaimed Conner.
Conner says the meetings have become pep rallies for the people who are hell-bent on having Daniels back in as chief and don’t want to hear the reasoning behind the decision.
“If they keep coming on like this then the meetings are either going to get shut down or they’re going to start getting rolled out by whatever police are available,” Conner said. “But this is not going to continue. And I am not going to sit in a chair and have somebody assault and battery in front of how many witnesses? A hundred at least. They can have their tantrums. They can do what they want. They’re not going to hold me hostage. They’re not going to hold this town hostage and that’s all there is to it.”
Residents say the Select Board is inciting the outrage and that they are invested in having Daniels back in as chief.