Appointments mark end of police reserve force

WESTFIELD — Seven reserves became full-time officers this week, as the state’s police reform laws prompted the end of the Westfield Police Department’s reserve force.

The Police Commission appointed Sean Kelly, Joshua Weaver, Kyle Murphy, Samuel Evans, Jestyna Peatman, Brandon Miemiec and John Fitzgibbons to full-time police officer positions on Aug. 30. Police Chief Lawrence P. Valliere said that because the recent police reform bill in Massachusetts takes away the reserve intermittent academy, those seven officers were the final reserve officers the Westfield Police Department will employ.

Valliere said Aug. 31 that Westfield was one of the few remaining communities with reserve officers, and that he thought the reserve force had been a good tool for both the officers themselves and the department. The reserve pool gave Valliere options for covering shifts when a full-time officer had a vacation or needed to miss time for any reason.

He said it also provided an opportunity for reserve officers to test the waters of policing before committing to it as a career, while also giving senior officers the chance to observe the reserve officers in the field and evaluate them before they are brought on full-time.

Valliere said that the seven newly appointed officers will enter the full-time academy on Oct. 25. Most of the seven had seen little to no street time as police officers thus far.

In the era of police reform, Valliere said that he has not seen many of the issues in Westfield that larger police departments have been facing across the country. In many larger police departments, officers are leaving the profession at higher rates than before, and fewer people are seeking to become officers. Larger cities have also seen tension between groups like Black Lives Matter and people who adamantly support police.

Though there were some protests last year following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, they were peaceful, and the police in Westfield were respectful of the right to protest.

“It’s not easy, but compared to Springfield, Hartford, Boston, Worcester, it’s not as challenging,” said Valliere.

There were some early police retirements in Westfield, but Valliere said that in most cases it was an officer who had been close to retirement and chose to do so a year or so early because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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