Hinsdale hires temporary police chief, prompting jeers
HINSDALE -- Over the opposing shouts of many, the Hinsdale Select Board hired former Pittsfield Police Officer Charles Bassett as temporary police chief at a meeting Wednesday.
Select Board Chairwoman Bonnie Conner said Bassett will be paid hourly and work up to 40 hours while the town "sorts out" its future with Hinsdale Police Chief Nancy Daniels, who's on paid administrative leave. Selectman William Goddard Jr. joined Conner in voting in favor of Bassett's appointment while Selectman Bruce Marshall opposed.
News that the appointment would occur spurred a raucous crowd of around 100 of Daniels' supporters to attend, forcing the meeting to move from Town Hall to the Kittredge Elementary School gym.
Onlookers time and again disrupted the proceedings, demanding that the board reinstate Daniels at 32 hours per week. Police escorted out one man who stood and threw a water bottle at Conner.
"I want an explanation as to why we need a different police chief and why we're paying more money for someone out of Pittsfield when we have a person here that is knowledgeable of the town and of the people," said resident Deborah Fassell.
Town Counsel Brian M. Mazer cited Daniels' failure to complete state-mandated Massachusetts Police Training Committee training for full-time officers.
"The chief hasn't passed the [Physical Abilities Test] to sit for that exam, so at present she can't perform full-time police powers," Mazer said. "She had a waiver. That waiver expired in November."
Resident Chris Pike, a former member of the Finance Committee, concurred. She said despite the opposition, the Select Board was right in replacing Daniels.
Pike pointed out that in 2010, Hinsdale residents voted to restructure the police department from a part-time chief and two full-time officers to a full-time chief and two part-time officers.
"It's the fiduciary duty of the board to follow what the electorate wanted, and what they wanted was a full-time, fully qualified chief" Pike said. "That's just the way it is."
The state in November declined to grant Daniels a waiver after receiving a request from Conner. But Daniels' supporters contend the letter made no mention of medical conditions that prevented the chief from attending.
And they said the MPTC in December signaled that it might reconsider if Conner submitted a new request that contained more information. Conner rejected this request Wednesday.
"Based on a review of the MPTC minutes from 11-20 and 12-18, I see no reason to make an application for a waiver," she said, sparking an eruption of jeers that brought the meeting to a hasty close.
Daniels' attorney Mark T. Brennan decried Conner's decision in an interview Thursday as "petty vindictiveness."
"I think they are boxing [Daniels] into a corner," Brennan said. "A simple letter explaining why she couldn't make the last training sessions would have satisfied the MPTC. They're setting her up for failure."
Bassett, the town's newly appointed temporary police chief, is a 26-year veteran of the Pittsfield Police Department. Bassett graduated from American International College with a master's degree in criminal justice.
Brennan and former Hinsdale Selectman David Kokindo disputed the appointment because the position wasn't advertised, despite Hinsdale being an "equal opportunity employer."
The two offered an answer to the question on the lips of many who attended Wednesday's meeting: when had Bassett come into the picture? Both identified Bassett as "a friend of Conner's ex-husband" and said he offered his services after Conner contacted him personally.
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