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Our Opinion

Our Opinion: North Adams community deserves to know more about police chief's exit

Both of Berkshire County’s cities are now looking for new police chiefs. In Pittsfield, it’s because the top cop is ready to retire. In North Adams, the circumstances are a bit more mysterious.

Over the weekend, North Adams Mayor Jennifer Macksey officially relieved Police Chief Jason Wood of duty, saying in a prepared statement that she “lost trust and confidence” in Chief Wood’s ability to lead the local force. Chief Wood already had been on paid administrative leave since March 8, two days after police were called for a “domestic incident” involving Wood and a married couple. Wood will continue on paid leave through June and will no longer be on the city’s payroll after that.

When The Eagle asked the mayor about her decision to remove Chief Wood from his command of the North Adams Police Department, she said that an investigation into the March 6 incident, which was not criminal in nature, had been completed. Mayor Macksey also indicated that the incident was not the reason Wood was relieved of duty.

She did not elaborate on what the reason actually was. She should. We have no reason not to take the mayor at her word that her decision was unrelated to the March 6 domestic incident. But we — and the people of North Adams — do have reason to want answers on precisely why the city’s police chief lost the mayor’s trust and confidence to perform his duties to the point where she saw fit to make the city essentially pay him to stay home until his contract expires in June.

Absent a solid reason, reasonable members of the North Adams community are left to infer on their own. Was it perhaps a matter of the chief’s truthfulness that arose from the investigation of the March 6 incident, if not the personal details of the incident itself? Or was it a completely unrelated issue that arose independently but coincidentally around the same time that undermined the mayor’s confidence in the chief to do his job as the city’s top law enforcement agent? What about Chief Wood’s performance or conduct, officially or otherwise, made it necessary to swiftly remove him from command? The North Adams community deserves some clear answers to those questions. The taxpayers who will continue to compensate the chief for another few months also have an interest in the trust and confidence inspired by the Police Department’s leader of four years and how, from their mayor’s perspective, it was squandered.

The mayor should inform that public interest, not obscure it, especially as the city prepares to choose a new chief to lead the Police Department. City leadership can begin that critical search project on the right foot by being transparent with the community as to exactly why they need a new police chief in the first place.

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