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Editorial: Zigzag course to chief

First we zig, then we zag.

If last week’s announcement that Greenfield Mayor William Martin has found a police chief — who qualified for the job under Civil Service — had you scratching your head, you weren’t alone.

The issue isn’t Martin’s decision to hire Robert H. Haigh, who has been steadily moving up the ranks within the Orange Police Department since 2002 and has been the chief for just shy of 11∕2 years. He’s familiar with Greenfield, too, having gotten his start as a patrolman in the department in 1999. And you have to like what Orange Town Administrator Diana M. Schindler had to say about Haigh’s handling of the chief’s job there: “He worked through instability and provided stability once again. He’s great at managing to keep things going well, and when he says he’ll do something, he does it. He’s very transparent.”

Thus, while this is an outside the department hiring, Haigh isn’t a stranger to Greenfield or the area by any stretch of the imagination.

No, what makes it all anticlimatic is all the drama preceding the announcement. The mayor’s desire to hire a police chief outside of Civil Service was no secret. That stance had put Martin at odds with the police union, some town councilors and residents who argued that having a Civil Service police chief ensured a buffer of independence between the department’s leadership and the workings of the mayor’s office. We, too, shared the concern over how the mayor would ensure a separation between himself and the chief that would work.

Perhaps Martin should get credit for seeing all of the handwriting on the wall. His wish to take the police chief’s job out of Civil Service had been met with resistance each time he broached the subject. This latest time, the Public Safety Commission joined in questioning the wisdom of such a move.

And so, the mayor zagged back to hiring a chief though Civil Service.

Apparently all of the frustration and unease was for naught.

Which makes you wonder if it was necessary at all?

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