The Rochester Board of Selectmen on March 5 officially appointed Sergeant Robert Small as the next police chief to replace Chief Paul Magee when he retires this year on September 14.
Small engaged in a brief public interview that evening, during which he stressed readiness to take over the department. Small completed an executive development class with the Municipal Police Institute, a course specifically designed to provide extensive training towards the position of police chief and other upper level law enforcement positions. Small also attended a civilian ‘team building’ program, he said, “that’s to sort of get an idea on how to be a little more proactive in taking advantage of peoples’ particular skills they possess … and being able to make the most out of what we can get out of our officers.”
“Recently, I’ve taken on more administrative tasks,” Small stated, including taking on the leading role in this year’s fiscal year 2019 budget process with Magee’s assistance. He said that in recent months, in addition to daytime supervisory responsibilities, he has undertaken many other responsibilities to ensure a smooth-as-possible transition into the chief’s position.
Selectman Naida Parker pointed out the issue of speeding in Rochester and its ranking as a “hot button topic” in Rochester, asking Small how he plans to address residents’ concerns.
“I think maintaining a lot of the stuff we do is really important and just being consistent,” said Small. He said he would follow through with Magee’s public forum he held last fall and continue that activity if the public wanted it. Other avenues, said Small, would be acquiring equipment to assist in catching speeders and possibly involving residents in tracking speeding in certain areas.
Small said he plans to continue efforts to expand police involvement in the schools and maintain all that is currently in place that enforces communication between the Police Department and the schools.
“We can look to do more,” Small said, but the bottom line is funding. Would a school resource officer be a direction he would like to go in? Yes, he said, and he would explore options to fund one, possibly through grants. “I think that would certainly be great for opening communication with the younger kids, not just at the high school age but even younger. Having them see us in a different forum opens up communication…”
Small started his career in law enforcement in 1991, was hired full-time by Rochester Police in 1998, and appointed Sergeant in 2013. He’s been a certified sexual assault investigator since 1995 and runs the department’s R.A.D. System (Rape, Aggression, Defense) self-defense program for women.
A department’s reputation is critical, says Small, and he will work to ensure that the Rochester Police Department lives up to it.
“I’ve been here for a long time,” Small said. “I’m very invested in this town and this department. I care about the image and the reputation of the town and the department.” He continued, “I certainly feel that we have a group of officers that I’m very happy to work with and are very involved in the town and actually care about the relationship with the town and the department…. To me, that’s really important. They go hand in hand.
“We should strive to do more, and I think we do…” Small said.
At that, Parker, saying she was surprisingly choked-up and emotional, made the motion to appoint Small as chief, pending contract negotiations. The vote was unanimous.
Also during the meeting, the Finance Committee told the selectmen that roughly 85% of the Town’s budgets have been reviewed line by line, with four budgets currently on hold: police, fire, highway, and EMS.
“We’re looking good,” said Finance Committee Chairman Kristian Stoltenberg. “I would say, based on what we have for revenue and what we have for budgets … we’re looking pretty good this year.”
In other matters, selectmen have taken under advisement a request from the Rochester Country Fair Committee to serve beer during the Friday and Saturday evening entertainment events. A “beer garden” space would be closed off and contained where people with wristbands would be allowed to consume one beer at a time. One officer would be stationed within the beer garden for security, and no one would be allowed to roam the fairgrounds outside the beer garden. The hours would be limited to between either 4:00 or 5:00 pm until 9:00 pm on Friday and Saturday only. Chief Magee gave a nod for giving this first year trial a go, and the selectmen took the matter under advisement and will make the decision during the next meeting.
The Rochester Country Fair will be August 16-19 this year.
Also during the meeting, the board appointed Brad Morse to serve as the board’s representative to the Carver, Marion, Wareham Regional Refuse Disposal District. The appointment stems from concerns raised at the last CMWRRDD Committee meeting about the future of trash disposal in the area, the imminent closure of a Rochester transfer station, and the possible closure of an additional transfer station in either Rochester or Marion belonging to the CMWRRDD.
The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for March 19 at 6:30 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.
Rochester Board of Selectmen
By Jean Perry