Both good departments. DPD is in the process of hiring a new chief and it all hinges on their selection(their acting chief is also a candidate and a wing nut). Overall, they stay busy and it's a good group of guys. HPD is also a good department. The administration is accomodating to new ideas and generally let one go out and do their jobs unrestricted-which is huge. The station house is circa 1940's and is on it's last leg. Fortunately, temporary renovations are underway and a new station is anticipated in 4-5 years. The big drawback is that there is no Quinn, the town voted against it 2 yrs ago-so one only receives the state's portion(5, 10, 12.5%). Still a good department and expect to see positive steps in the future.
DENNIS - Wanted: A new police chief for the town of Dennis.
Salary: $90,000 to $100,000.
Qualifications: An appetite for change.
As Dennis moves to replace retired police chief John Symington, a recent assessment by the consulting firm spearheading the search offers barbed criticism of the department and a broad call for reform.
"There is a shared opinion that the department has separated itself from the people it serves," says the assessment compiled by the consulting firm Bennett Yarger Associates. "This is particularly true of the Chief of Police."
That language - and the assessment's use of words such as "aloof" and "detached" to describe the department - has some community leaders crying foul. They think the department has reached out to the town in recent years through things such as bike patrols, a strong school presence, and links to neighborhood-watch groups.
But others say the assessment, if too strongly worded, is accurate. They argue the department needs a stronger "community policing" approach with more collaboration between police and the citizens they serve. The department also needs a chief who is more visible in town and more accessible to the rank-and-file.
And at the center of the debate is the retired chief himself. Relaxing before dinner in green cargo pants and a T-shirt at his Dennis home recently, Symington said he doesn't mind the darts thrown his way - after 10 years as chief you get used to taking shots.
He just wishes he were the only target.
"The biggest issue is it clearly does a disservice to say that the department as a whole isn't providing a certain level of service," Symington said. "That's just not the case."
Symington, 53, officially retired in December after a decade as chief, a job that paid him $98,400 in 2002. Capt. William Monahan is now the acting chief. Selectmen consider him a top candidate for the job, which they hope to fill by May.
The consultant's assessmentis based on interviews with town officials, business leaders and police. The firm is getting $25,000 to find the town a new police chief and a new fire chief to replace Paul Tucker, who will retire in July.
The review praises the Dennis police force for its quick, effective and professional response to calls. But it's the bite of its criticism that's raised eyebrows.
"I haven't heard statements like that made in other searches," said Yarmouth Police Chief Peter Carnes, president of the Cape Cod Chiefs Council.
Response to criticism
To some Dennis leaders, the assessment's support of "a significant change in the department to reconnect it to its core constituency" is just wrong.
Peggie Hunter, executive director of the Dennis Chamber of Commerce, ticked off several examples of the department's community involvement.
There's the Dennisport crime-watch organization - police have attended nearly every meeting.
There's the National Night Out in August - police sponsor demonstration tables there every year.
There's the annual bike rodeo in downtown Dennisport - kids bring their bikes and police give them safety talks.
"I feel their community involvement has been pristine," Hunter said.
And that leaves out what both Monahan and Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District Supt. Tony Pierantozzi described as a highly active presence in Dennis schools.
The presence includes resource officers assigned to secondary schools, an officer designated as liaison to Ezra Baker Elementary School, and an officer who leads the anti-drug program D.A.R.E at Wixon Middle School.
Officers spend more than 200 hours a year doing safety education in Ezra Baker alone, Monahan said.
All good, say others, but it's not enough.
Selectmen Don Trepte and Jane Otis both said the new chief needs to do two things: be a much more visible presence in the community, and be much more accessible to the department's rank-and-file
"The patrolmen are out there," Otis said. "They go to the neighborhood crime watch, the community fair. But as far as the brass going out into the community, absolutely not. You don't see them."
Trepte, while praising Symington's performance, said the new chief should attend major community events and work closer with town department heads and schools.
That kind of presence shows police management is "not aloof and up there" but "part of the community," Otis said.
But Symington said community policing is not about the chief attending every meeting.
"The idea of community policing is to decentralize the formal command structure and provide the lowest levels the ability to make decisions."
Symington said his community policing initiatives included sending a survey to every household in Dennis to get feedback on the town's safety issues.
He expanded the crime-prevention unit - the department's liaison to the community - to include a second officer.
And he started a bike patrol that's grown from three officers to 11 and from patrolling just Dennisport to the whole town, a program that Monahan said the town has warmly welcomed.
Cleon Turner, who served as a selectman during Symington's tenure and as a police officer under his predecessor, Pasquale Santamauro, praised Symington for his community policing and crime prevention steps.
"The difference between Dennis police crime prevention now and when I was on the department is like the difference between a Model T and a 2004 Cadillac. It's a huge difference."
The department's biggest problem was lack of communication between management and patrol officers, Turner said.
A current Dennis police officer who did not want his name published said the relationship between Symington and his patrol officers was "less than ideal" because Symington blocked input from the lower ranks. That rankled some officers who wanted their ideas heard, he said.
Case in point: One 10-year Dennis patrol officer said he suggested to Symington that the department take the roof lights off some traffic cars to make them more stealthy.
"Symington looked at me like I had 10 heads," said the officer, who requested anonymity.
The officer subsequently left to join Yarmouth's department, a switch he said police jokingly call "swimming the river." Four Dennis police officers have left for Yarmouth since 1997, according to Yarmouth Police Lt. Steven Xiarhos.
"I was just kind of getting fed up," the officer said of his decision to leave. "They just don't want to do anything new over there. It was stagnating."
Some Dennis officers were so frustrated with Symington's refusal to meet with them once that they sent selectmen an 18-point memo detailing their concerns and asked the board to intervene, Otis said.
Symington said sometimes contract negotiations made it appropriate to deal with union representatives and not a group of officers, but otherwise his door was always open.
"Is my style the most touchy-feely in the world?" Symington said. "Maybe not. But I have never turned down an officer" who needed help to deal with issues.
Turner and Otis said the lack of communication contributed to another problem highlighted in the consultant's assessment: turnover.
Between Jan. 1, 1999, and Dec. 31, 2003 the department hired 22 full-time police officers, Monahan said, for a total full-time officer staff of 41.
Sixteen full-time officers left the department during the same period. Seven retired, seven went to other law enforcement agencies, and two switched to other fields.
By contrast, the police department in neighboring Yarmouth, with 54 full-time officers, has not lost an officer to another agency since 1992, Xiarhos said. Six have retired since 1999, and one was killed in the line of duty.
Symington said some of the turnover is "natural," partly because the small department has limited opportunities for advancement, partly because Dennis' pay is just average compared with other Cape departments.
"When I started 30 years ago, I took the place of a guy that left after two weeks," he said. "There has always been an issue of turnover."
So what did you think of Dennis's exam? I was pretty shocked about being able to take notes during the observational portion......hopefully we'll all do good and get interviewed....Any idea how many they want to hire?