WESTFIELD- The Police Commission promoted Sgt. Michael Gibbons to the position of full-time Temporary Lieutenant June 14 during the commission’s first in-person meeting since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gibbons is filling a vacancy cause by the promotion of former Lt. Stephan Dickinson had been promoted to temporary captain on April 13.
The Police Commission interviewed Gibbons along with Sergeants Douglas LaValley and Michael Kane.
Each candidate was asked the same set of questions from each of the three commissioners. Commissioner Felix Otero asked Gibbons what qualities he believes he possesses that would make him an effective lieutenant. He said that mutual respect between officers and their superiors is important in having an effective police department.
“I think that’s huge and that’s key to the overall operation and organization of a public police department. If your subordinates respect you, in turn you don’t really have to ask them, they will in turn do the job for you because they respect you,” said Gibbons, “When I was a patrolman I didn’t like supervisors that said, “because I said so,” or, “because I am your boss,” the best work I did was for supervisors that I respected and they respected me back. I wanted to do a good job for them.”
Commissioner Richard A. Sypek asked how Gibbons would ensure a high morale among the officers who will work under him. Gibbons said that it is important to be willing to do yourself what you are asking the officers under you to do.
“I don’t put anything beneath me, I try to be a team player. If the patrol is really busy I will go look after prisoners, I will bring prisoners from the street into booking,” said Gibbons, “I don’t think that as a sergeant that is beneath me and that a patrol officer should do that.”
Capt. Dickinson and Capt. Jerome Pitoniak both recommended that the commission promote Gibbons. Chief Lawrence P. Valliere said that he did not see anything in particular separating the three candidates in their interviews, and ultimately deferred to the opinions of the two captains. The commission voted unanimously to promote Gibbons, effective June 26.
The commission then moved on to a series of interviews for two openings for sergeant, one of which would be permanent while the other position was temporary. Officers Brendan Irujo, Matthew Schultze, William Cavanaugh, Brian Freeman, and Jason Perron interviewed for the positions.
The Police Commission ultimately chose to promote Irujo to the permanent full-time sergeant’s position while Det. Freeman was promoted to the temporary position. Each of the candidates was asked by Sypek about how they think incoming police reform efforts and general attitudes towards police in the U.S. will affect the police department in the future.
Irujo said that his biggest concern was that people would become hesitant to join police forces and recruitment would drop. He said there is no simple solution to the problem, but that getting police departments involved in local colleges and universities may be a step they could take to improve police and community relations.
Freeman said that he does not think the general criticism of policing in America really applies to the Westfield Police Department. He said he thinks Westfield’s police have a better relationship with the community than other departments across the country.
“I think we do need to keep working with the community to keep their trust,” said Freeman, “I think we have their trust, I just think we need to keep their trust.”