Tisbury selectmen interview three for police chief, but delay choice
Although the Tisbury selectmen interviewed the three finalists vying for the town's chief of police position Tuesday night, they did not reach a decision yet.
"We are going to do more research and a little more deliberation," said Selectman Chairman Tristan Israel, after the board met with some members of the police chief search committee and then in executive session following the interviews.
The selectmen plan to meet again next week, Mr. Israel said yesterday. "We are blessed right now to have (Acting Chief) Tim (Stobie) down there manning the fort, so there's no real urgency at this point, and we want to make sure we make the right decision," he said.
Lt. Kenneth Harrison. Photos by Janet Hefler
Last week, the police chief search committee had recommended three finalists to the selectmen, Capt. John Cashin of the Norwalk, Conn. Police Department, Officer Daniel Hanavan of the Tisbury Police Department, and Lt. Kenneth Harrison of the Weymouth Police Department. Interviews were held Tuesday night and open to the public.
The three candidates, dressed in coats and ties, heard many jokes about being "in the hot seat" as they sweated their way through their 45-minute interviews, held in the sweltering Katharine Cornell Theatre. The selectmen did encourage them to remove their jackets for comfort.
The set-up proved awkward for the audience, as selectmen sat at a table facing them, while the interviewee sat facing the selectmen with his back to the audience.
The selectmen asked their prepared questions in turn, and invited the audience to submit written questions of their own at the end of each session. However, no one responded from the audience, made up mostly of fire department, police department, and volunteer ambulance personnel, town employees, and members of the police search committee.
The interviews culminated a year of uncertainty regarding the police chief position, set off last year when the selectmen and former Police Chief Theodore (Ted) Saulnier failed to reach an agreement on salary in contract negotiations in the spring of 2005. Under his contract's terms, he was entitled to one-year's notice, allowing him to remain in his post through June 30, 2006.
The selectmen advertised the position in March and appointed a police chief search committee in April. On June 9, Chief Saulnier officially retired, and the selectmen appointed Tisbury Police Officer Timothy Stobie as acting chief, effective June 10.
Officer Daniel Hanavan.
A background check
Selectman Tom Pachico started each interview by asking about the candidate's career and background.
Lt. Kenneth Harrison, first up on the roster, has served as a police officer for 32 years. He started in Brewster as a patrolman in 1975, and then joined the Weymouth Police Department in 1977. After his promotion to sergeant and then lieutenant, he spent the last 18 years in the Technical Services Unit.
Officer Daniel Hanavan, the only local candidate, has served as a permanent police officer with the Tisbury Police Department for 17 years. He has assisted with several investigations, including a larceny case involving some items stolen from an estate and auctioned off on eBay. Ten years ago, he initiated and planned the first Tisbury Bicycle Safety event, since held annually.
The final candidate, John Cashin, is a captain in Internal Affairs in the Norwalk Police Department. He joined the department in 1981 as a patrol officer, working his way up from sergeant to lieutenant and then captain. After obtaining a master's degree in counseling and psychology, he began practicing informally in his department, and teaching psychology related to police work as an adjunct professor at Pace University.
Although the selectmen asked questions that ranged from the philosophical, "What has been your greatest challenge and your greatest disappointment?" they also asked many questions relating to the small town aspects of Tisbury's police department and the role of the police chief in the community. Despite the candidates being asked mostly the same questions, the format seemed somewhat disjointed, because the order of the questions varied in each interview.
Lt. Harrison and Captain Cashin both have vacationed on the Island. They appeared to have done their homework in preparing for their interviews, as their answers demonstrated knowledge about the Tisbury Police Department and the town.
Capt. John Cashin.
When asked why he wants to be Tisbury's police chief, Lt. Harrison said the main reason is that he likes the atmosphere and size of the department and the town. "I'm an advocate of contemporary policing, but I understand the tradition and flavor of the Cape and the Islands," he said, including the challenges of a seasonal environment, which he dealt with in Brewster.
Officer Hanavan said he applied for the chief position, because although he has been with the Tisbury department a long time and has seen many changes, there are others he would like to see accomplished. "I have local knowledge and know the social issues, I have the respect of my co-workers, and I think I am a good fit for the position," he said.
Mr. Cashin said he felt it was time for him to leave the department he is in and move on, because he feels he can still make a difference, especially as a police chief. He would like to serve as a chief who keeps the community informed and involved, he said.
Selectman Denys Wortman asked the candidates what they thought Tisbury expects from a police chief and how they think the townspeople would judge their effectiveness. "You never get a second chance to make a first impression," Lt. Harrison said. "The townspeople will want a department with integrity and personal pride, and responsive to their needs.
Officer Hanavan pointed out that Tisbury is a tourist town, where the police officers are friendly and people know they are in a safe environment. They can judge the department's effectiveness by the fact that when they call for service and Tisbury officers respond, they do their best to solve a problem, he said.
Capt. Cashin said he hoped Tisbury residents would judge him on the success of outreach programs and his availability to recognize and respond to their needs. The culture of the police department starts at the top and flows down, he said.
All three candidates emphasized the importance of a police chief making himself a familiar presence in the community, by walking around town, talking with people, acquainting himself with the Main Street merchants, and taking part in community activities. Both Captain Cashin and Lieutenant Harrison mentioned they spent a little time walking around Tisbury on Tuesday, observing the town.
Neither sees differences in small town versus urban policing. Although he comes from a larger community, Lt. Harrison said the social issues are probably the same. Tisbury has many of the same problems found in larger urban areas, but the frequency is less, Capt. Cashin pointed out. "Whether you are the chief of police here or in San Francisco, you are the personification of the police department," he said.
Given the selectmen's obviously apparent prickly relationship with Chief Saulnier, they asked the candidates how they would deal with the board.
"The Chief of Police should develop a good relationship with the Board of Selectmen," Officer Hanavan responded. Lt. Harrison told the selectmen if he could not "make the sale" to convince them about something, he would work out the differences with them. Captain Cashin said he knows how to take an order, although he will speak his mind honestly.
Since salary was at the heart of Chief Saulnier's contract dispute, the selectmen questioned each candidate about whether the salary range, advertised as $64,332 to $80,514, would be an issue. Mr. Pachico pointed out to Mr. Hanavan that he would be taking a cut in pay as chief, since he would no longer be eligible to work detail duty, a source of extra pay. He said that cost of living raises and his longevity pay would narrow the gap.
In addition to salary, quality of life and personal satisfaction are important, Lt. Harrison said, and that he was confident he and the selectmen could come to some satisfactory agreement. Captain Cashin said living on the Vineyard on the salary offered "...will be tricky, but I think I can stretch it."
Concerning housing and availability, Lieutenant Harrison said he has access to a home on the Island, and could be available possibly by mid-August. Captain Cashin said he will need to sell his home in Fairfield County, but is confident that he could do it in six months - the timeframe stated in the job advertisement.