Marion hired a new police chief

To the Editor;

            Since it was reported that Marion hired a new police chief within its ranks via an “internal posting,” many residents are questioning, if indeed, every police officer truly had an equal opportunity to apply, particularly, when out of 25 officers on the force, only one applied for the position. Also, the lack of publicity about the interview process, regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, is concerning.

            How do taxpayers know they are getting the best person for the job when the only person who applied is hired? At this point, a prudent and judicious Human Resources person/administrator should have gone externally to ensure the best qualified, skilled, and practiced professional was hired. All business firms, corporations, and governmental agencies follow this best practice model. Perhaps Mr. Nighelli is the best-qualified person for the chief’s job, but Marion taxpayers have no way of knowing.

            What exactly is the promotional process within the Marion Police department? Is it fair? Is it equitable?

            “Officer Nighelli began his career as a police officer with the Department of Mental Health in Boston in 1999. He became a patrolman with the Nantucket Police Department in 2002 before being hired as a patrolman with the Marion Police Department in 2003. He was promoted to sergeant in 2007 and promoted to lieutenant in January 2018.” Many consider his experience thin for a police chief position.

            Does Mr. Nighelli have a college degree in criminal justice or law enforcement? Most police chiefs today have a master’s degree or a law degree. Police Chief Robert Small in Rochester has a law degree from Southern New England School of Law. 

            Can Mr. Nighelli multi-task? Does he have skills in communication, stress management, and leadership? Is he familiar with relevant software and computer programs, research methods, emergency management, and terrorism? What about proficiency in firearms and physical fitness? There is no mention of grant writing experience, knowledge of how policy is framed and developed, and methods used for upgrading the department.

            So, Mr. McGrail says the new hire may skew the leadership in town a bit young, but more important than youth is having the wisdom, ability, and credentials to do the job. 

            Mr. Nighelli served as the accreditation manager during Marion’s state re-accreditation process in 2018. What is the purpose and benefit of accreditation? What is the cost of the added lieutenant position, considering salary, benefits, and a take-home cruiser? Can police officers be held accountable without the need for accreditation? It is my understanding that some departments do not pursue accreditation because of the added lieutenant position and the cost. Many residents say the accreditation process is a money pit in overtime, and that accreditation created the lieutenant position. Since officers can still be held accountable for policies without accreditation, many taxpayers see little to no value in accreditation.

            Police officers/first responders are essential front-line workers who need personal protection equipment and sanitation in their workspaces (cruisers and station) between shifts to armor themselves against the deadly COVID-19. More than 90,000 Americans have succumbed to the coronavirus, and every day sheds new light on the deadliness of this pandemic. It has been 70 days since Governor Baker declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts, and we still do not know when Marion’s police officers and other essential personnel will receive heroes pay/hazard pay. How will Mr. Nighelli and the Town Administrator ensure that Marion’s police officers are protected? Should police officers be allowed to take their cruisers home? Healthy first responders/safety officers are essential to every community’s peace and safety.

Eileen J. Marum, Marion

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