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New police chief installed at last
Friday, April 01, 2005
By KATHLEEN E. MOORE
[email protected]
EAST LONGMEADOW - Douglas W. Mellis was sworn in as police chief Wednesday morning, ending a two-year vacancy in the town's top law enforcement position.

The former chief of police in Hampden, Mellis, 52, took the oath for the East Longmeadow job during an early morning ceremony at Town Hall. Afterwards, he met briefly with department heads before going to his new office on Somers Road. That office was empty, but for a parting gift he received from his former dispatcher in Hampden.

An orange bucket full of doughnuts sat on Mellis' file cabinet.

"In the past, I guess some of my guys in Longmeadow had told them I had a penchant for doughnuts," said Mellis, laughing heartily. "I gave them up for Lent, but my Lent's going to have to last about 10 years. I like doughnuts, but they don't really like me."

The sense of humor is no put-on. Since donning his first badge as a Springfield police cadet 34 years ago, Mellis has worked to strike a balance between the personal and the professional. The rigors of police work have not eroded his ability to laugh at the quirky side of human nature.

"If you don't have a sense of humor, this job can really get to you," he said. "Because when you see what mankind is capable of doing to each other in fits of passion, well, you have to be thick-skinned."

Town officials might well have said the same about the recruitment process that brought Mellis to their door this February. Twice in as many years a police chief finalist backed out at the last moment, forcing selectmen to begin a lengthy Civil Service-mandated selection process all over again. Last year, the town voted to take the position out of the Civil Service system.

Residents and local dignitaries gathered at Birchland Park Middle School Wednesday night to fete the new chief.

"People are going to be happy with Doug Mellis because he's a decent, fair guy," said Selectman John M. Claffey. "When they see what type of chief he'll be, they'll agree that it was worth all the work, and the wait, to get him."

Mellis served for more than 28 years in the Longmeadow Police Department before taking the job in Hampden 27 months ago. He has also been active with the Massachusetts Concerns of Police Survivors, a group that addresses the problems faced by the families of police officers. Fifteen years ago, Mellis lead a contingent of officers who ran a relay to Boston to raise funds for National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. Mellis went on to run the rest of the relay to Washington, eventually netting $75,000 for the cause.

"If there's a philosophy I bring, it's to lead by example. I try to get in there and do what I'm asking others to do," he said. "I've run and completed five marathons, too, so I know a little about completing the job."
 
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