STOCKBRIDGE -- Pittsfield resident Kirk E. Nichols has been recruited as a new officer on the town's police force, Police Chief Robert M. Eaton, Jr., announced last week.
Nichols, a recent graduate of the Western Massachusetts Regional Police Academy, will fill the position vacated by Officer Brian Shaw, who began work as police chief of Egremont, his hometown, on Jan. 1 after 24 years of service in the Stockbridge department.
A U.S. Navy veteran, Nichols, 27, served as a corpsman and was deployed to Afghanistan for tours of duty in 2009 and 2010, winning numerous medals, ribbons and citations, said Eaton.
Nichols, who will be working the midnight shift after completing his field training officer program, is pursuing a degree in criminal justice at Berkshire Community College. A native of Maine, he moved to Pittsfield after marrying his wife, Sarah, whose family resides in the city.
Eaton continues to work on filling a second opening created after Officer Rosario Messina's recent transfer to the West Stockbridge department as a patrolman. Besides Eaton, at full strength the Stockbridge force has five full-time officers, with 12 reservists on call.
The Stockbridge chief is pursuing his mission of winning state accreditation and certification for the department. He recently hosted an informational session for Berkshire area chiefs on the accreditation program, which requires meeting 159 compliance standards to gain certification.
The session, presented by the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission, included details on how individual departments can collaborate to attain the designation. The commission, formerly a state agency, is now a private, nonprofit organization.
Besides Stockbridge, western Massachusetts agencies represented included the Dalton, Egremont, Great Barrington, Lenox, Lee, Sheffield. Tyringham and West Stockbridge departments, as well as Agawam, Greenfield, Wales and Westfield State University.
"Accreditation instills a lot of different procedures," Eaton explained. "With a little more accountability and professionalism, it ramps it up a notch."
Assessors from the commission will examine the department's compliance with standards and recommend modification, if needed.
The new chief has detailed plans to position the town's department as a "hub" for collaboration with the county's other agencies to work together toward accreditation, teaming with the Berkshire County Chiefs of Police Association.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
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On Twitter: @BE_cfanto