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Northfield police chief won’t renew contract

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NORTHFIELD — The town’s police chief has announced that, for medical reasons, he will not seek renewal of his contract, which ends in January.

Police Chief Leonard Crossman Jr. said he needs reconstructive surgery on his leg, and will be on crutches while he recovers, unable to fulfil his patrol duties. The surgery is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 6.

“This is the second surgery I’ve had within a year,” said Crossman. Last fall, Crossman was desk-bound for six weeks after a foot surgery. During that time, he had to bring other officers in to cover the patrol duties he would normally perform during his shift. The department typically has a single officer per shift.

Though the chief would be able to perform administrative duties after his surgery, he would again have to supplement his shift with an able-bodied officer who can patrol and respond to calls.

This time, he said, he will be recovering for two to three months.

During Crossman’s evaluation earlier this year, the Selectboard made it clear that the town wants a working chief — one who’s out on patrol rather than riding a desk.

“I think (not renewing my contract) is probably the right thing to do, to allow the town to explore other options,” said Crossman.

Crossman’s review process, started in February, and has yet to be completed. Chairwoman Kathy Wright said the Selectboard was going to revisit the review in the near future — until notified the chief wouldn’t seek renewal.

The Selectboard will begin looking into options to replace the chief at its next meeting, Oct. 30.

“We will have to figure out what to do in the short term and the long term,” said Wright. “This took us all by surprise; we had no idea.”

Both Crossman, 33, and the town thought he’d be around for years to come.

“When we hired him, everyone thought it would be nice to bring in a young chief, one who could grow with the town. I’m very sorry that it didn’t work out, especially since there’s a medical reason involved,” said Wright. “I’m really concerned for his health, and I pray that he’ll be able to be healthy, and find another niche for himself.”

Crossman said he has no immediate plans for another job. He would like to remain in the field of law enforcement, though in what capacity, he does not know.

Crossman has been a police officer since 1999, when he started working part-time for the New Salem Police Department.

“I was the county cop for quite a while; I worked all over,” said Crossman.

He said he doesn’t plan to jump ship the day his contract expires. He’d like to continue working for the town while it seeks a new police chief.

“I’ve told (the board) I have no plans, that I’ll stick around as long as they need me,” he said.

“That will be a huge help, one that we didn’t have before (when chief Gary Sibilia retired),” said Wright. “It took a little over a year before Len started. It could take as long this time, as well.”

Sibilia left in October of 2008; Crossman, was hired in 2010 on a three-year contract.

Wright said she hopes Crossman can stay around for the transition, to help a new chief learn the ropes and get settled in town.

“I certainly have enjoyed working with him; I think he’s done a great job in town,” said Wright.

“The townspeople have really welcomed my family and me,” said Crossman, who commutes from Orange. “We’ve been a part of the community, and will continue to be.”

“Len and his family have been here for just about every potluck, or charity event in town,” said Wright. “He’d bring his (5- and 7-year-old) girls to the library, and other events. He and his family have brought a lot to town.”

He’s done a lot for the department, too, said Wright.

“He’s started some really positive practices that we hope to continue,” she said. “They involve communication, and involvement in the community and programs for children and youths.”

She said Crossman issues detailed quarterly reports to the entire town, and that he and his officers have been involved with school activities and programs.

David Rainville can be reached at:
rainville@recorder.com
or 413 772-0261, ext. 279

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