The town of Stockbridge has found a replacement for its longtime police chief.
Robert Eaton Jr., of Smithfield, Rhode Island will be moving west to the small Berkshire town of Stockbridge. Captain Eaton is a 23-year veteran of the Smithfield Police Department and is a graduate of the F.B.I. National Academy. Stockbridge Selectwoman Deb McMenamy chaired the town’s search committee, which held its first meeting in August.
“Every step of the way he proved himself to be excellent in all the categories and challenges he was offered,” McMenamy said. “He did a great job. I think he is going to be great.”
Eaton will replace Chief Rick Wilcox, a 43-year veteran of the department, including 28 as the top dog. McMenamy has lived in Stockbridge for 30 years and has been on the Board of Selectmen for the past 14.
“We were so fortunate to have a man like Rick Wilcox be head of the department for so many years,” she said. “His good judgment, temperament, the way he dealt with people, knowledge of the town and his professionalism. He was a gem. He really enhanced our department in every way possible. It was great having him. We’ve really been very fortunate.”
The four-month search process initially involved 36 applicants, dwindled down to three by canvassing resumes and experience records as well as problem-solving challenges and both public and private interviews. McMenamy says Eaton’s background and performance throughout the process made him the top candidate.
“You want somebody who recognizes the importance of community policing which is the way that small towns like ours need to be policed,” McMenamy explained. “That’s one of the things Rick Wilcox did so well. He knew how to deal with the community and be part of the community. And this new person that we have now has very much the same philosophy about dealing with the community and being part of the community.”
McMenamy says it will be difficult for Eaton, or anybody, for that matter, to step into the shoes of a longtime chief in a town of roughly 2,000. But, she is confident Eaton is up to the challenge.
“I’ve said compassion and his ability to listen,” she said. “He does that very well. Listening is so important and he showed that he was able to do that in a way that I think will give him a really good opportunity to fit into the community in a way we all want him to.”
Chief Wilcox will retire in mid-February at the state-mandated age of 65. Eaton’s hiring as the town’s newest police chief will become official pending the usual personnel background checks, contract negotiations and medical exams to be completed within the next two weeks. Wilcox and Eaton will provide further information regarding the transition of leadership at the town’s Selectmen’s meeting Monday at 7 p-m.