Rising in the ranks: Packed house for first Pittsfield fire, police promotion ceremony


Photo Gallery | Pittsfield Public Safety Promotional Ceremony

PITTSFIELD — The city's inaugural Public Safety Promotional Ceremony was held Tuesday evening, as Pittsfield officials, fellow police officers and firefighters, family members and friends crowded into City Council chambers to celebrate seven officer promotions.

Such celebrations are held in many other communities around the country, said retired Deputy Fire Chief Michael Polidoro, and Pittsfield officials had long discussed doing the same. "We would like to start a tradition," he said, in opening the ceremony.

"I am thrilled to see such a positive turnout, especially for a brand new promotional ceremony," said Police Chief Michael Wynn.

He said the attendance of public safety employees for any event is hard to predict because of the on-call nature of the departments, and what can happen to thwart "the best laid plans." But he noted that even though "firefighters had to work around the clock" battling a massive fire in a vacant city warehouse, they felt it was important to attend the first annual promotional ceremony.

Honored Tuesday after their swearing-in to new officer positions by City Clerk Jody Phillips — and a badge pinning by family members — were PPD officers Capt. Mark Trapani, Lt. Gary Traversa and Sgt. John Soules; and Fire Department officers Capt. Thomas Sammons, Lt. Kenneth Cowan, Lt. Matthew Packard and Lt. Robert Stevens.

Wynn also recognized Sgt. Matthew Kirchner, who could not yet take the oath because his final Civil Service paperwork approval is still pending.

"It is not an easy task and decision to serve in the police or the fire service in this day and age," Wynn said, "and yet people still do it. They make that sacrifice. But having made that sacrifice, it is definitely not an easy task to make the decision to be responsible for others [performing those duties] ... That is an enormous responsibility and it is not often recognized."

A supervisory role in public safety "is an awesome responsibility, but also an amazing honor," Wynn said.

The chief and other speakers noted that the families of officers also endure sacrifices because of the amount of time needed to rise to and serve in a supervisory role in either department.

Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said he appreciated those who attended to honor the officers. "It is an important night to the officers and their families. I want everyone to understand that. It is a celebration that celebrates a lot of hard work that they put forth and dedication to their careers," the chief said.

He described the Civil Service testing process for an officer position, which involves studying eight to 10 books, many more than 500 pages; studying traffic laws, and becoming familiar with Massachusetts General Laws and command system management techniques. An officer will often study long hours for well over a year, he said, leading to a three-hour Civil Service test, all before the interview process for the officer position.

As an officer, Czerwinski said important decisions that affect the public and fellow firefighters must be made at every fire call scene, no matter how routine-seeming. Each incident must be managed with the safety of the public and firefighters in mind, often requiring rapid decisions under pressure.

"You are now the leaders of tomorrow," who will replace the senior members of the department as they retire, Czerwinski said.

Mayor Linda M. Tyer said the promotion ceremony recognized what "years and years of commitment can lead to."

The event "reaffirms the high standards for which both departments strive," Tyer said, and their success and promotions "send a powerful message to each rookie that everyone can aspire to leadership in their organization."

She described the vital role public safety officers play as they interact almost daily with city residents and the nature of the jobs they perform. She added, "I hope you have a profound sense of pride in your accomplishments this evening."

Also attending were council President Peter Marchetti and councilors Kevin Morandi and Anthony Simonelli.

The Pittsfield Police Department Honor Guard escorted the guests of honor into council chambers. A reception, courtesy of the Pittsfield Permanent Fire Association and the Pittsfield Police Association, followed the event.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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