Officers vie for sergeant position

SOUTHWICK – The Board of Selectmen interviewed five candidates from within the Southwick Police Department for the position of sergeant last night.
The vacancy was created with the retirement of Sgt. Richard Cross. Candidates were officers Roger Arduini, Rhett E. Bannish, Donald E. Day, Paul Miles, and Michael Taggart.
The board asked each candidate the same six questions, which included those created by the board, as well as questions submitted by the community and other department heads.
One question was a scenario of an accident at the intersection of Powder Mill Road and Rt. 57. The vehicles were a 10-wheel tanker truck bearing a flammable materials placard and a medium sized pick-up truck. The officers were told there were no serious injuries; the large truck driver was concerned his cargo was spilling, and it was lightly raining. The scenario was that the fire department was en route. Each candidate was asked how he would respond.
Arduini said his first task would be to get everyone away from the area.
“I would block the road and possibly get someone at the intersection of Powder Mill and Depot,” he said. “I would possibly close the road until the fire department arrived on scene and contact the Board of Selectmen.”
Bannish said he knew the placard indicated a flammable substance and he would consult the handbook found in all police vehicles.
“I would instruct officers to block off the area and detour traffic,” said Bannish. “If school is in session we would look at moving people out of the building.”
Day said he would also consult the handbook to determine what material they were dealing with and move people from the area.
“We may set up road blocks and create a boundary with help from the fire department,” he said. “It’s important to take our time before we react when there are flammable materials. We may have to call in other services.”
Miles also said he would consult the handbook if the driver did not know exactly what the material was. From there, he would decide what course of action to take.
“If the book says to vacate, you may have to shut the road down or evacuate the area,” said Miles.
Miles said he would work with other agencies, including the fire department, emergency management, the media and out-of-town services, to move forward.
A second scenario of a 911 call from a child on Dairy Lane was given. The candidates had to discuss how they would respond if a fourth grader called to say a man in a van tried to lure him into the vehicle while he was walking home under the ruse of a lost puppy and he was now home alone.
All the candidates said their first priority would be the safety of the child.
“I would go to the residence, speak to the child and parents and get a description of the van and driver and put a BOLO (Be On The Lookout) out,” said Arduini.
Bannish said he would respond as quickly as possible to the child and try to reach a parent or responsible adult “who can take care and comfort him” while gathering information. Day said his main concern would be the child and family.
“It is a traumatic experience,” he said. “First and foremost, you want to take care of that child, then go house to house and do a car search.”
Miles also said dispatching a police officer to the scene immediately was the priority.
“Then get as much information as we can and canvas the neighborhood,” said Miles.
Taggart also would immediately go to the child then reach out to the neighborhood and surrounding communities to locate the vehicle.
A third scenario was presented for the candidates to discuss their reaction. The scene was a 1 a.m. call from a local nightclub where a large, loud group gathered in the parking lot with a possible fight.
Taggart said before arriving on the scene he would assess what personnel were available and try to determine if any weapons were shown at the scene.
“Depending on how big the crowd is we have the ability to call for help from other towns and we may want to have enough officers to disperse the crowd together,” he said.
Miles said he would respond “with all due care and speed” and focus on restoring peace and tranquility, finding those involved in the fight if there was anyone, and keep the parties from continuing he fight.
Day also said he would try to have a group of officers arrive together and assess the situation.
“We would talk to people, talk to the owner, and see if there is a videotape,” day said.
Bannish said he would look to utilizing Suffield and Granby police if needed and identify potential suspects on the scene.
“We would quell the situation with the manpower we have,” said Bannish.
Arduini said he would strive to arrive quickly and split up the crowd to determine what happened, obtain any video surveillance of the scene, and determine if it was a simple assault or warranted a complaint from the police.
All men said they would document the situation for the lieutenant.
The candidates were asked their feelings on community policing and all said they believe it’s a positive way to connect with the community and be more approachable. The candidates were asked what one thing they would change about the current Southwick Police Department.
Arduini said he would change the amount of paperwork required for court hearings. Bannish said he believes the department currently functions well.  However, he would like to see more proactive patrols for enforcement. Day said he would change roll call to be a more efficient use of the transfer of information. Miles said he would change the atmosphere of the department.
“I would like it to be a more fun place to work,” he said. “I want to bring a more positive attitude and I want people to look forward to coming to work.”
Taggart said he believes the department has an excellent workforce and the change he would like to see is to bring back the citizen police academy.
The officers were also asked how they would deal with repeated confusion surrounding the new center turning lanes on College Highway. All candidates agreed education was the main way to inform drivers how to properly use the lane, and the officers said learning how to use the lane would take time.
The Board thanked each officer for taking the initiative to advance. Chairman Arthur Pinell said the board hopes to make a decision at its next meeting after consulting with Police Chief Mark Krynicki. More than a dozen people were present during the open session interviews.

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