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Pittsfield Police Department sees staffing shuffle amidst departures

An SUV is parked on the street in front of a brick building with "Pittsfield Police" on its doors
Josh Landes

Staffing changes are afoot inside the largest police department in Berkshire County.

At Tuesday’s monthly Pittsfield Police Advisory and Review Board meeting, Chief Michael Wynn gave an update on the police department’s inner workings.

“Unfortunately, I’m losing two thirds of my senior command staff in the next couple of months," he said. "We thought that they were both planned retirements. But one of them, you know, after announcing their intention to retire later in the year, was also experiencing some medical health related things and so has put in for their disability, which now takes the decision out of the department's hands and his hands, because the Retirement Board could vote on that at any given time. And so knowing that I could be losing two senior captains in a short period of time going into the last part of the year, I had a rather panicked meeting with the mayor. And I said, there's no way I can wait until these retirements become effective. I'll lose the ability to manage the department.”

Wynn told the board that the outcome of that panicked meeting was a raft of temporary command promotions issued Friday.

“Lieutenant Tom Dawley, who has been the day shift commander as a lieutenant, was promoted to temporary captain, and he's been moved into the detective bureau as the interim detective bureau commander, getting ready to replace Captain Trapani," said the chief. "Lieutenant Gary Traversa, the Communications, Outreach and Professional Standards Bureau commander, has been promoted to temporary captain. He essentially shifted into the role of his boss so he is now the Operational Support Division interim commander, getting ready to replace Captain Grady. Sergeant John Mazzeo, who was a supervisor on midnights but is also in charge of our background investigation unit, was promoted to the temporary Lieutenant. He's the interim day shift commander to replace Tommy Dawley. And Sergeant Matt Hill, who has been a long-standing member of the day shift supervisory team, was promoted to interim lieutenant and he backfilled Lieutenant Traversa. So those two sergeants will have to be replaced at some point. But again, we're just waiting for the dust to settle and maybe some of our recruits to graduate from the academy.”

Wynn’s administrative staff is also experiencing its share of planned and unplanned vacancies.

“A long-planned retirement that was effective in the second week of January was Mrs. Wheeler, who was the firearms administrator," said the chief. "She was scheduled to retire and she retired on schedule. But at the same time we were preparing for her to go, our Administrative Services office manager was offered an opportunity in the private sector. She decided to take it. So she went in the first week of January. She's given us 10 to 12 weeks to help us through the transition. And then our grant accounts finally caught up and we were able to move Mrs. Gregory-Bilotta, my admin, into the grant-funded full time Grants Manager position, which she had expressed an interest in- Which means I now need to replace her.”

Despite protest about expanding the department’s budget from some members of the public, the Pittsfield City Council approved the creation of the grants administrator role on a 7-4 vote in May 2021.

“So I have three job postings out on my core admin staff simultaneously," continued Wynn. "We’re scheduling those interviews, kind of as we go. At the same time, we have a patrol staffing issue that is not news to any of you. We've been dealing with that for quite some time. But we have three in the academy. The academy is dealing with COVID-related issues, and so we're hoping that they're going to graduate on time. I interviewed three today to fill into our next academy, and we requested a new requisition for another six because the new civil service list just came out. So, constantly chasing staff.”

The department is budgeted for around $11.5 million and 118.5 personnel for fiscal year 2022. While the budget has continually risen year-to-year, Wynn reports the department remains understaffed.

The chief said his staff is processing new de-escalation and use of force guidance from the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training, or POST, Commission, established in 2020 through criminal justice reform legislation.

“We are currently in the process and just promulgated the draft regulations on Friday to open them up for comment period on the actual procedural regulations that will guide the POST’s administrative hearings process, how somebody gets decertified or has their certification suspended, and how somebody appeals the actions of the POST commission," said Wynn. "So those are in the very beginning drafting processes. And if nothing goes wrong, they should be final by April. I think April 15th was the day that unit gave us.”

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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