Williams sworn in as Greenfield’s deputy police chief Thursday
New Deputy Chief Mark Williams is upstaged by his one year old daughter Eliza as he addressed those gathered for his swearing in at the Olver Transportation Center on Thursday. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »
Mark Williams is sworn in as Deputy Chief in the Community Room at the Olver Transportation Center on Thursday by town clerk Deb Tuttle. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »
GREENFIELD — Mark Williams became the town’s deputy police chief Thursday, after 15 years with the department.
While he has been on countless calls since he joined the department, one early call stuck out in his mind and he gave the crowd at his swearing-in a detailed account.
“On Nov. 28, 1999, I was a new full-time officer, with four months’ experience,” he recalled. “My partner and I were called to a Hayes Avenue apartment on the third floor — they’re always on the third floor — for an unwanted intoxicated male.”
Williams, now 41, responded with another new Greenfield officer.
The call itself was pretty run-of-the-mill. Someone had had too much to drink and was creating a nuisance in someone else’s home, and wouldn’t leave.
It’s what happened next that makes Williams remember the incident so vividly.
“We went in and began to deal with the subject and things quickly got physical,” he continued. “My partner was able to get him down and I was trying to get a grip on his other arm.”
The two continued to grapple with the drunken man and Williams’ partner advised him to use one of his nonlethal weapons.
“He said, ‘Spray him, Marky, spray him,’ so I took out my pepper spray,” Williams said.
Pepper spray, which subdues subjects by striking them with intense eye pain, isn’t the most accurate weapon in an officer’s arsenal.
“When pepper spray shows up at the party, everyone knows it. It doesn’t differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys.”
Cannister in hand, Williams aimed at the combative man and sprayed.
“The next thing I heard was, ‘Oh, Marky, you got me,’ and it wasn’t our suspect speaking.”
Williams had overshot his target and sprayed his own partner.
That partner was Robert Haigh Jr., now the Greenfield police chief and Williams’ boss since last year. The incident didn’t keep Haigh from recommending Williams as deputy police chief earlier this month.
“I promise to never pepper spray you again,” Williams told the chief.
Haigh said the position will be an asset to the department and the town.
“I’ve felt strongly since I arrived in town that Greenfield would benefit from a second-in-command,” said Haigh.
Williams will assist in the managerial aspects of the department and also serve as an adviser to the chief.
“He’ll be able to provide a different perspective on things when I need to hear it,” Haigh explained.
While Williams is glad to step into his new position, he said he will miss working face to face with the Greenfield community.
“I’ll miss being on the streets,” he said. “That’s the biggest drawback of the position.”
Williams’ career in law enforcement began more than 20 years ago. He studied criminal justice at Westfield State College, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1995. While enrolled, he became a security officer at Mount Holyoke College, working there from 1993 to 1999. He then became a full-time Greenfield police officer, going on to become a detective and, most recently, sergeant.
He said it’s not his education or years of experience that enabled him to rise to the rank of deputy chief. He said the credit belongs to his fellow officers, for working closely with him and each other, striving to improve the department as a whole.
That humble attitude led him to ask the chief not to make a big deal of his promotion and to hold a small ceremony in the department’s meeting room.
Haigh denied his request, opting instead to host a large crowd at the John W. Olver Transit Center and a reception at the Greenfield Country Club. In attendance were Williams’ colleagues, as well as police officers from several other towns, firefighters and state police.
You can reach David Rainville at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 279 On Twitter, follow @RecorderRain
(Editor's note: Some information in this story has changed from an earlier version)