Saturday June 30, 2012

BECKET -- Officials looked within their own borders to find the town’s first full-time police chief.

Officer Kristopher G. McDon ough, a four-year veteran of the department, has been hired as the chief. McDonough replaces part-time chief William Elovirta, who spent 22 years in the position and 33 years as a member of the department. McDonough will officially be in his new position on Sunday.

McDonough was appointed by Town Administrator Craig Kleman and the Select Board signed off on the decision this week. Elovirta, a newly elected selectman, recused himself from the vote.

McDonough was one of 33 applicants for the job, with resumes coming in from across the country, according to Kleman.

"He just seemed like an all-around candidate that would do well in the town of Becket," said Kleman.

McDonough, who wasn’t immediately available for comment for this story, was hired by Elovirta in August 2008 after working in part- and full-time capacities for the police departments in Egremont and Sheffield.

McDonough also has received a degree in criminal justice from Westfield State College.

Town officials said McDonough has a good understanding of the law and that part-time officers will often turn to him for advice. They also said his knowledge of the town makes him a good fit for the position.

"He’s just an excellent officer," said Elovirta. "He’s got the credentials, good moral character. As far as I’m concerned, they made the right decision."

McDonough will earn a salary of $55,000. The new full-time position is not exclusively administrative, and McDonough will be expected to work on patrol as well.

Town Meeting approved an increase in the police department budget to pay for a full-time chief and the town’s first overnight officer. Prior to that funding, part-time officers were on standby after midnight, despite having more than 100 calls during the early morning hours last year alone.

Part of the rationale for the town going to a 24-hour coverage was the rash of burglaries that occurred over the winter, particularly in second-home neighborhoods.

"With 24-hour coverage," said Kleman, "anybody who is going to perpetrate those crimes is going to have to be aware there’s going to be a police officer around."

Elovirta called his retirement "bittersweet." He noted that there were no murders in town during his tenure and only one shooting he could remember. In recent years he said there was a lot of storm-related work, including response to Tropical Storm Irene last August and the devastating ice storm of December 2008.

"There’s a lot of aspects about it I won’t miss, but I’m going to miss the officers," said Elovirta. "We had a decent team. I wouldn’t have lasted 22 years if the officers didn’t support me."

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