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New Adams, Mass. Police Chief Lays Out Agenda

A white police officer smiles
Frankfort, Indiana Police Department
Interim Adams, Massachusetts Police Chief Troy Bacon.

The town of Adams, Massachusetts has a new interim police chief. In June, the select board unanimously chose Troy Bacon – formerly of the Frankfort, Indiana Police Department – to lead the Adams Police Department for a six-month trial period before choosing whether to apply for the permanent job. He fills the role vacated by Richard Tarsa Jr., who retired in late June after almost four decades working for the department – 7 of which he spent as chief. WAMC spoke with Bacon this week.

I spent 20 years in Indiana as a police officer. Eight and a half of those as chief of police. I'm a graduate of Purdue University, have a Master of Science Degree from Indiana State University. And I'm also a graduate of the 259th session of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy.

In coming to Adams, what do you observe about the community that makes it different from your experiences in Indiana?

Well, the, the terrain obviously is a lot different. Indiana is very flat lots of cornfields and bean fields, so the terrain is much different. But you know what, the people are just as welcoming in Adams as they are in Frankfort, and I've appreciated that. And another thing that I've noticed is the talent of police officers here and Adams and their dedication to the community. I’m really impressed by that and can't wait to really start digging deep and, and really become a part of the team and working towards it better Adams.

When you talk about that work towards a better Adams, what's the top of your docket in that effort?

Well, I think there's two things. One, working with the officers to ensure that operations are done in a most optimal manner. But also I think it's, it's working with the community, working with community and developing partnerships that lend us to being able to problem solve issues in our community, working together with the police to solve those issues.

You're stepping into this role at an unprecedented time in the country when conversations about defunding police departments and police brutality, racial justice- These are all the hot topics of 2020. You know, stepping into this role here and Adams, I'm interested: What are your thoughts on that conversation as it pertains to your work here in the Berkshires?

Well, I, I understand that it's a difficult time and- But I think we're going to, we're going to get through it and we'll get through it by working together, partnering with, partnering with each other. I think sometimes, you know, it's been my experience that everyone wants the same goal. Everyone wants the same end. But everyone, unfortunately, sometimes has a different way of getting there. So I think it's important to have those conversations with the police department, with the town government, and the community to try to figure out what the best way to get to that end goal is. And I'm confident that over the next few months or years, we'll get there.

Do you have any experiences over your time in law enforcement where you worked with a community through a difficult time or through a controversy that you feel like has informed your ability to have those conversations?

Well, you know, in my past, there's been issues that have come up. But- And we have been able to work with the community. I come from a community that's 30%, Hispanic, distrust with the police was, was pretty significant. In over eight years, we worked really hard to bridge that gap. And we did that by having community meetings, changing the face of the police department to reflect the community that we served, and also bringing on a police Chaplain, Hispanic Latino Police Chaplain, to help also bridge that gap. Those are just surface area, things that we did, but absolutely have experience in that field.

When it comes to working your way into the larger law enforcement community of Berkshire County, what are those conversations, like I'm thinking with the DAs office, with state police?

You know, right now it's just introductory, introductory. I think we're just trying to get to know each other a little bit. Some of the deeper conversations that I'm sure we'll have, we haven't had yet. But right now, it's just feeling each other out, understanding personalities and developing relationship that we can form to, to ensure that, um, we do the best for the community.

Are there parallels in Indiana and your experience there to Western Massachusetts' struggles with the opioid epidemic?

Absolutely. I think nationwide, there was a time where we all struggled pretty heavily and especially in the community that I came from. But the community now- Or the community that I came from, with the opioid problem, we were able to have some community conversations, get the police working with the community, worked with legislators to change some of the laws. And quite honestly, some of the, the opioid abuse that was once in Indiana has really shrank. And unfortunately, a lot of the users In Indiana- At least for the community that I'm from, has switched back to methamphetamine and using some other drugs as well. So I think it's pretty similar. When you look at the problems here. I think if we start working with legislators in the community, one thing that we did in Frankfort was whenever the police department would, would show up to an opioid overdose: we would hand out to either the victim or a family member that was present, a card and on that card was resources that they could get help, that they could find treatment, or a phone number that they could call or whatever. But there's a lot of similarities and I have some ideas, but I know that there's some officers here they have some great ideas to in the community.

What are your thoughts on the use of body cameras on police officers?

I was part of the Indiana Association of Chiefs of Police legislative body and we worked hard to get the body camera laws established in Indiana. So I'm pretty familiar with that. We were one of the first agencies in Indiana to adopt a full body camera but- I'm sorry, adopt a department wide body camera and in-car camera system usage. So I'm very familiar with that process and something that I'm looking at here, moving forward.

I imagine entering the office in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic can't be a terribly easy way to be introduced to the experience. How has the pandemic impacted both the work of the department and your introduction to the region?

Well, I tell you, I think the biggest thing is really what we've not been able to do with engaging in our, with our community. I'm the type of Chief of Police that likes community meetings, I like getting out, I like foot patrols. I like engaging the community, I like the officers to do the same. And that's really set us back a little bit. So I think we have to be creative, moving forward, how we do that. Nobody knows how long this is going to last, so I think it's imperative for police departments in the region and the state- And the country, I guess, to, to think of creative ways to bridge that gap to develop those relationships and problem solve like, like we used to. So in terms of getting to know people on the street that really hasn't hampered me too much, everyone wears masks and socially distance. So- But I think the key thing is those, those community meetings and close relationships that we used to have with our community, we just can't have right now.


Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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