Dartmouth's new police chief will be an internal hire

Jan 23, 2018

Dartmouth’s new police chief will come from within the department.

At its January 22 meeting, members voted 4-0 to look internally for outgoing police chief Bob Szala's successor, instead of accepting resumes from outside candidates.

“I’ve always been of the school that you should hire from within if there are qualified candidates,” said member Shawn McDonald. “The reason for that is it becomes a next steps up and helps with morale of the rank and file.”

Chief Bob Szala, retired after serving for 34 years in the Dartmouth Police Department, and just under two years as chief. He made the announcement in a letter to the Select Board on December 19, citing his health. He has been out of work after suffering a heart attack at home in April 2016.

Member John Haran suggested requiring in-house candidates to undertake state assessments which measures competencies required for a job through job simulated exercises, according to the state website.

Mickelson said he was not in favor of the requirement. Town Administrator David Cressman estimated the cost at about $5,000-$10,000.

While Szala has filed his retirement paperwork, they have not yet been officially approved by the state retirement board, said Chair Frank Gracie. He said that means the town cannot officially appoint a new one, although member Stanley Mickelson questioned if an appointment could be made earlier.

“I think we need to be very careful that we don’t make the same mistakes that the previous Select Boards made, and that for us to search anywhere other than our own department is just ridiculous,” Mickelson said. “There’s nowhere else we need to go.”

Haran also asked how to handle the two investigations the department is running now - a missing firearm which went missing from the locker of former officer Frank Condez, who was later fired, and allegations into election law violations involving ballot boxes in the 2017 Fire District No. 2 election.

"I don’t think we should burden a new [police] chief with these two open investigations,” Haran said. “I’d like to see them done before we place someone in there as our new chief.”

Board members wanted more time to decide if state assessments would be required, and held off on a vote on that question. The board also decided to hold off on voting to put together documents for the position until its next meeting.