Lenox police chief gets vote of confidence from Select Board

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LENOX — The Select Board has issued a strong show of support for the town's police department, singling out Chief Stephen E. O'Brien for his dedication to the community's safety and overall well-being.

"We want him to know because there is so much criticism of police at this point in time that he certainly has the support of our Select Board and I'm proposing that we give him an endorsement," said Select Board member David Roche.

"It's our collective opinion that we have a strong chief and well-trained officers who display integrity and confidence in all situations," Roche said. "We should endorse and continue to support them."

The move comes amid a national discussion about defunding police departments following the death of George Floyd while being subdued by a Minneapolis Police officer. And the School Committee recently rejected a suggestion from a recent Lenox Memorial Middle and High School graduate to sever the school district's relationship with Lenox Police.

"In this day and age, it's important for us to show the public and our police department that we are behind them," Roche said, "and there's no reason we shouldn't be. They have done so much for this community over the years."

And he suggested that O'Brien should notify the Select Board if he needs anything in connection with training or equipment.

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"We seem to always lean on him every time we need something," he pointed out, citing specifically police monitoring of the downtown's burgeoning outdoor food festival, with half a dozen restaurants offering additional dining on the sidewalks and in converted parking areas.

Police details will be patrolling the central business district in the late afternoon and evenings over the holiday weekend, starting Thursday, to help direct visitors and answer any questions.

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Select Board member Marybeth Mitts noted that she had reached out to the police chief recently "because of all that's going on in the national discussion."

"I've always been so proud of the work that our police have done for our students and for our families here in town, and keeping us all safe and informed, taking great care of us," she said. "They always serve and protect."

Select Board Chairman Edward Lane, along with members Neal Maxymillian and Warren Archey, agreed.

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"I've had nothing but the utmost respect for Steve and the whole staff," said Lane, a lifelong resident. "We should show our support and will show our support. Anything they need, they can have."

Lane's father, Dave Lane, was the town's first full-time chief, appointed by the Select Board in 1963.

Maxymillian suggested the Select Board should write a letter of appreciation to O'Brien and invite him to the next meeting, a suggestion welcomed by the other board members.

Meanwhile, Maxymillian noted that the town beach has been closed for the summer and the Lenox Community Center's summer camp programs have been canceled. He described it as "the right decision, given the current state of COVID-19, even though Berkshire County is doing well. I have not heard any complaints."

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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