Cop commission takes back offer

WESTFIELD – At the request of Police Chief John Camerota, the members of Westfield Police Commission voted to rescind a decision made at their previous meeting to rehire former Westfield police officer Francis Towle.
Towle had served as a police officer in the city for about for three years before he moved to North Carolina with his family about two years ago.
At their previous meeting, the commissioners were told that Towle had moved to North Carolina when his wife got a job offer at a hospital in that state and Towle was hired by the police force in Gastonia, North Carolina. However, the commissioners were told, Towle’s wife was laid off and he was hoping to get his job back so he could return to the city.
However, Camerota told the commissioners Monday evening that he “got a negative vibe” when he was able to speak directly with Towle and found that he was not as eager to return to his old job as Camerota had been led to believe, and that his return to the city was uncertain. Camerota said that Towle “couldn’t tell when or even if, he would return” to Westfield.
Camerota said that a big part of why Towle had been offered the slot on the police roster was because he is already trained and qualified to start work immediately. A new applicant would face substantial delays due to required training.
Nonetheless, the commission voted to call for a civil service list of available applicants to fill the two current vacancies on the roster which result from the death of Officer Kevin Swords and the resignation of Officer Michael Coach.
In other personnel action, the commission also appointed three new officers to the list of auxiliary officers.
Auxiliary officer are unpaid officers who augment the department’s workforce and are vital to the force, Camerota said, as many events in the city, such as the annual fireworks display, “wouldn’t happen” without their assistance.
He has said that the auxiliary officers generally fall into two groups.
One group is comprised of older, usually retired, law enforcement professionals, while the second group are younger persons who are hoping to gain law enforcement experience to build their careers upon. Auxiliary officers are required to pay for a four-month-long police academy training course, which costs about $1,400, and must provide their own uniforms and books.
Lt. Ron Minor, the commander of the auxiliary force, told the commission that none of the three candidates is a city resident and said “It’s tough to find qualified people” in Westfield, due to the costs of the training and equipment which must be borne by the applicant.
Michelle (Dion) Palmeri is a former city resident who now lives in Springfield and has been previously interviewed by the commission for a position on the full-time police force. At that time, Minor reminded the commissioners, Palmeri had not been able to meet the physical requirements of the job but has been working on that goal.
Minor said that she is “highly recommended” by City Councilor Jim Brown and is willing to commit to the time and expense of the police academy. He said that her appointment would be an opportunity for the department to see if she is qualified for a place on the force.
Minor said that Keith Piscottano, a Chicopee resident, has already completed academy training and thus could start immediately. Minor said that Piscottano is currently working as a correctional officer in Connecticut but has assured him that he will be available to come to the city “at a moment’s notice.” Minor said that Piscottano’s application is enthusiastically supported by a serving city officer, patrolman Patrick Shea.
The third applicant for the auxiliary force is Nathan E. Dudek, a Southwick resident who is currently self-employed as a paving contractor.
Minor said that he has no previous law enforcement experience, but served as an intern with the community policing squad, and is recommended for the job by the community policing supervisor, Steve Dickinson.
He too is willing to make the necessary commitment in time and money for the required training and equipment, Minor said.
All three candidates were appointed by unanimous vote of the commissioners.
And another personnel shortage in the department was alleviated when the commissioners approved the immediate hiring of four substitute crossing guards.
Camerota told the commissioners that there is a shortage of crossing guards, due to the hours required and said that currently “we have to pull a cruiser out of patrol” to provide an officer to ensure the safety of children leaving school.
He said that four applicants who are “all retired residents of the city” and “eager to help the city” are available to start immediately.
The commission voted unanimously to appoint James Maher, Michael Michalczyk, Richard Pulaski and Wiliam Tatro as new substitute crossing guards.

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