Chilmark’s Sgt. Jonathan Klaren is the town’s new police chief

Chilmark Police Chief Jonathan Klaren says his department will undergo additional training. – Edie Prescott

Updated March 15 at 5:50 pm

After a long process, selectmen chose one of their own, and promoted Chilmark Sgt. Jonathan Klaren to the chief of police job. The two other finalists for the job were from off-Island.

James Malkin, left, shows the scatter diagram he did at 2:30am on Wednesday to weigh the differences between the top two candidates, Jonathan Klaren of Chilmark and Bruce McNamee of Plymouth. Warren Doty, Bill Rossi and Tim Carroll sit at right. —Edie Prescott

“May I first say that I was very impressed with the quality of the candidates that we saw last night, and I’m really, really pleased with the search committee’s work, in terms of taking 15 applicants, screening them with very rigorous criteria and getting down to five, and then, from what I understand, very detailed interviews, to come down to three,” selectman James Malkin said. “I think our town has been well-served by the search process, and I’d like to thank the committee for the effort they put into this.”

Mr. Malkin was the first to explain his view in the Thursday-evening discussion, which none of the candidates attended. He suggested eliminating Frank John from Seekonk to focus on Sgt. Klaren and Bruce McNamee of Plymouth. Selectmen Warren Doty and Bill Rossi and interim chief Tim Rich agreed.

Mr. Malkin and Mr. Rossi joked that they were both up at 2:30 in the morning the previous night, mulling over the big decision about which man was best for chief. “You should have come over!” Mr. Malkin said, who also made a scatter diagram based on an exhaustive list of attributes he felt make a good chief.

They included, “Can the person command respect both inside the department and in the community, will he show initiative, have good communication skills, be flexible, have integrity, have longevity, and be proud of his town,” to name a few.

Mr. Malkin said that after plotting all the attributes for the last two candidates, they both ended in the upper-right quadrant, meaning that they were — on paper — equally strong candidates.

Mr. Doty pointed out that the Island often looks to off-Island people for jobs, such as the search for the principal at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. “In going through the credentials of hiring the most qualified person, and it turns out either [the person] doesn’t accept the job, or leaves after one year. I do have some of that concern about Bruce [Mr. McMamee].”

“I think the department’s in good shape, and Jonathan would be able to carry that on,” Mr. Rich said.

All three candidates were interviewed in a public forum the previous evening. Police chiefs from each town on the Vineyard were there. They were all there to support Sgt. Klaren’s candidacy.

“I think all the chiefs were here in support of Jonathan,” Mr. Rossi said. “I know that to be true — they all wrote letters.”

“The letters they sent were based upon knowing Jonathan as a known quantity, but in a void without knowing about Bruce,” Mr. Malkin said. “I was frankly disappointed that more of our voters weren’t here last night [for the interviews].”

Of the five chiefs present, in addition to Chilmark interim chief Tim Rich, two are brothers to Mr. Rossi — Edgartown’s David Rossi and West Tisbury’s Dan Rossi. Selectman Rossi noted this after the final selection.

“I have the advantage of having two brothers in law enforcement, and I throw things off of them, and it helps me understand what’s needed to be a successful chief,” Mr. Rossi said.

Mr. Rossi added that he got many calls from within the community in support of Sgt. Klaren.

Mr. Rich pointed out that after he retired seven years ago, he recommended Sgt. Klaren, and he continued to support him, although he said he approached the selection committee process with an open mind.

“We have an internal candidate who we know,” Mr. Malkin said. “We’re aware of his strengths, we’re aware of his personality, the town is aware of him, the force is aware of him. We’ve been with Jonathan, and that to me is a real positive strength.”

“He’s not as articulate as Bruce is, he’s not as polished,” Mr. Malkin added. “[Jonathan] doesn’t have the verbal skills that Bruce has.”

Planning board member Joan Malkin, a member of the search committee, said she was very impressed with Mr. McNamee’s people skills.

The selectmen’s decision drew applause from the audience.

Chief Klaren first worked for the Chilmark Police Department in 1989, as  a summer officer. He spent several years on the Aquinnah police force, and returned to work in Chilmark in 1996, working his way up to the ranks of sergeant in 2004. Chief Klaren has a bachelor’s degree from UMass, and a master’s in justice from Norwich University in Vermont.

Sgt. Klaren’s promotion will mean staff changes within the department. A new sergeant will be needed, and if an in-house person is promoted, then a new full-time officer will be required. Selectmen agreed that new Chief Klaren should be involved in these decisions, and did not discuss it further.

About that new chief

Jonathan Klaren got the word from Warren Doty, chairman of the town selectmen, last Thursday evening, just after Mr. Doty and selectmen Jim Malkin and Bill Rossi decided to choose him as the new Chilmark police chief.

“He told me that the board of selectmen voted to offer me the job,” Chief Klaren told The Times Friday morning. “I was a little at a loss for words with him — my reaction then and now is that I appreciate their support, I’m humbled by the support of the community, the department, and law enforcement [on the Island] that has been shown during this process.” One of Chief Klaren’s first jobs will be to help choose a sergeant to replace him on the force.

The new chief’s wife of 20 years this June, Kim (Romero), was “born and raised on the Island.” The new chief was born in Boston, but grew up in Dartmouth and moved to the Island year-round in 1990. The family lives in West Tisbury.

“I was introduced to the Island visiting in summers with my family, and I worked on a sports fishing boat out of Menemsha,” Chief Klaren said. “I was friends with Tim Carroll, and I showed interest in working at one of the beaches, and Tim introduced me to the summer police officer program — I didn’t even know it existed. Before you know, I was in training, and you’re on your way.”

Chief Klaren said that West Tisbury Police Chief Dan Rossi, who supported his appointment, started off the same way, as a special police officer in the summer program.

Mrs. Klaren worked at the Chilmark branch of Santander Bank until that branch closed last year. She now works in the optometry office of Dr. Santos in Vineyard Haven. The couple have one child, Kelly, who is a Vineyard high school sophomore and tennis powerhouse. Kelly began at the Chilmark preschool the year it started, and attended the Chilmark School through fifth grade, then spent sixth through eighth grades at the West Tisbury School. “I’m very familiar with the [Chilmark] school,” the chief said.

The chief said his family was thrilled by the news.

After Chief Klaren began as a “special” in 1989, his next step was the Police Academy in 1992. His first full-time job was with the then Gay Head Police Department. Chief Klaren came to Chilmark full-time in 1996.

“Tim Carroll, who is the executive secretary now, he was a police officer here, and when Mary Larsen retired from the executive secretary position, Tim left the police department, and then I came in,” Chief Klaren said. He became a sergeant in March 2004.

The chief will meet Mr. Doty Friday afternoon to review contract details. “It will be low-key, simple. It’s just part of the process,” Chief Klaren said.