Dalton — When the Strout family arrived late Saturday morning in Dalton center, everyone’s tasks were clear: Deanna, the mom, would take her oath as police chief. Before that, son Evan, 16, and daughter Paxton, 17, would lead the Pledge of Allegiance, then pin stars to their mother’s collars. Daughter Camryn, 10, would hand her mom a bouquet of flowers.
And husband Marc, a detective sergeant in the Pittsfield Police Department, decked out in his dress uniform, would pin the Dalton chief’s badge above his wife’s left pocket.
Unclear, though, was what else Marc Strout might do.
“All right, get ready,” he quipped, once the gold chief’s pin was affixed. And with that, he snapped out a salute to the new chief — to laughter, cheers and applause.
The noon ceremony at the Dalton CRA on Main Street became a family affair writ large — as the new chief’s extended clan joined with town officials, public safety workers and members of the community to witness the installation of Dalton’s first woman chief.
When they voted Feb. 11 to make Deanna Strout chief, members of the Select Board praised her connection to the community, shaped over two decades of police work in town.
Robert W. Bishop Jr., chairman of that board, grew emotional when he turned from the podium Saturday to speak to the new chief, before the oath was administered by Town Clerk Deborah Merry. “This is a great time for Dalton,” Bishop said. “It goes to show. If you do your job, follow your dreams, this is what happens.”
Deanna Strout and her family are escorted past members of the Dalton Police Department before she was sworn-in.
Strout was selected over two other finalists after receiving the highest rating in a skills assessment conducted by a consultant hired by the town. The board received several dozen unsolicited messages of support for her candidacy from people in Dalton.
“The community support was overwhelming,” Select Board member Joe Diver told the crowd.
“We’ve turned a major, major page. This is a great day for Dalton,” board member Daniel Esko said after the ceremony.
Anthony Riello, a former Pittsfield chief who served as interim Dalton chief for seven months, said in an interview that in the months he worked with Strout, he found her to possess special qualities in police work. “She’s a leader. She’s really a leader, I’m telling you,” he said.
Dalton Police Chief Deanna Strout speaks to the crowd after being sworn-in as chief on Saturday.
Strout thanked the board for its backing and trust and pledged to be available to the community. “My door is always open for everyone,” she said.
As she did during her final interview, Strout also praised Riello for using his months in the position to take steps to modernize the force, including the creation of new sergeant positions, and to motivate a young force of officers.
“He has been instrumental in bringing our department forward,” Strout said of Riello. “I also feel that I have found someone who likes to talk as much as I do.”
Interim Police Chief Anthony Riello speaks at the swearing-in ceremony for Dalton’s new police chief, Deanna Strout.
Those changes came after the board removed former Chief Jeffrey Coe from his post in early 2020, then subjected him to a disciplinary process that ended with him leaving voluntarily with a hefty severance without any admission of error or misconduct.
“We have come a long, long way since I started here 23 years ago,” Strout said. She praised the department’s officers, most of whom she led in Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) classes when they were in middle school.
“They are smart, motivated and they care about our community,” Strout said of the department’s officers. “I’m so excited to work with them to provide Dalton with the police service you’ve come to know and expect from all of us.”
She referred playfully to her husband’s salute after the pinning, which came as a surprise. Marc Strout, who serves on the Select Board, said privately he’d told his wife he would not be making that show of rank.
“I hope somebody has a picture of that salute,” the new chief told the crowd. “That’s going in the office.”
In closing, Strout spoke to her two daughters … “and all the other girls. Remember, we can do anything.”
In his invocation, the Rev. Christopher Malatesta asked divine support to help Strout build bridges “that make for a healthier society and better community.” Addressing the new chief directly, he said, “May you never lose your smile and enthusiasm. … May you always be rewarded for your goodness.”
The ceremony was attended by Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington and an array of local police chiefs, including those from Windsor, Hinsdale, Lanesborough and Peru as well as a lieutenant colonel from the Berkshire County sheriff’s department.
Also on hand was the town’s newly hired manager, Thomas Hutcheson, who will begin work in April, and dozens of town employees.