West Tisbury police chief Beth Toomey announced last week that she will retire late in March, or early in April. Chief Toomey has spent 27 years in law enforcement, 16 of them heading the West Tisbury department.
“This will always remain one of the most memorable times of my life,” Chief Toomey wrote in her resignation letter, presented to the selectmen last week. “Looking back, selectmen John Early, John Alley and selectwoman Cynthia Mitchell granted me an amazing opportunity to move our police department forward. I feel that now is another time for change and a time for someone else to take the reins – to have that same opportunity and to continue to move the West Tisbury Police Department forward.”
Chief Toomey thanked the selectmen and her officers. “I would like to acknowledge the many loyal and talented police officers that it has been my pleasure to work with throughout the years,” she said.
Chief Toomey’s retirement was the subject of much speculation last spring, and her contract was the subject of some controversy.
The contract automatically renews every three years and provides for payment of a portion of earned compensatory time, should her employment end.
Town policy allows payment of 25 percent of accumulated sick time and one year of accrued vacation, in addition to current year vacation, accountant Bruce Stone said last spring. According to town records, by last March, Chief Toomey had earned about $25,000 worth of compensatory time off, $10,800 in sick time and $14,400 vacation time totaling more than $50,000. On February 26, 2009, Chief Toomey wrote the selectmen indicating her records showed 297 hours of compensatory time.
Town executive secretary Jennifer Rand said she could not provide updated figures by Wednesday evening, on the amount of compensatory time, sick time, and vacation time taxpayers will owe Ms. Toomey when she retires.
After 16 years Chief Toomey leaves her job, but she isn’t leaving
During 16 years as chief of police, Beth Toomey saw just about everything West Tisbury had to offer a law enforcement official. Chief Toomey, who began her tenure in 1994, announced her retirement last week.
There was the time a loose and very obstinate male llama was on the lam. Her officers struggled to get the animal back in his own corral, but after a long battle, they could manage only to get him into confinement in another pen nearby. Except they got the llama into the pen of a female llama. One thing led to another, and the unplanned mating did not at all please the llama owners.
“You have to have a sense of humor,” Chief Toomey said this week. There were tough times too, for example telling parents their child had died. She said informing relatives of a death is especially difficult when the relatives are off-Island, and she had tell them over the phone. But it is the good times that stick in her memory.
What are the attributes necessary to a small town police chief? In addition to humor, she lists the ability to listen, to be creative, and to think outside the box, even when llama love rears its unusual head.
The small town appeal kept Chief Toomey here, after working in three mainland towns. “What I like about being here, especially this time of year, is you get to know people much better, and they get to know you,” “It’s fun,” the chief said, “to go to the movies this time of the year. You know most of the people there. I don’t mind sharing my summer with the rest of the world, because I have that off season time, when you know everybody on the boat.”
Chief Toomey is currently one of three female police officers on the Island, and the only chief.
“There’s always challenges for women in law enforcement, but I think there were just about as many pluses,” she said. “People make assumptions, stereotypes. People are shocked that I have five children, they assume I don’t know how to cook or sew. They put you in a little box. Sometimes it takes a little extra explaining. I’ve had just as many advantages where I could immediately help somebody. I feel like that evened itself out.”
The first time she came to the Island, to interview for the job, she got on the boat and observed only a couple of people wandering around the huge vessel. She wondered what in the world she got herself into. She soon discovered why the boats were so big and she discovered why so many people come to visit. She made her home and raised her children here, and she has no plans to go anywhere else.
“I’m going to be here. This is my home. Even though I get reminded I’m a washashore,” Chief Toomey said. “It’s 16 years of wonderful memories. I’m 57. It’s time.”