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Ashfield chief takes job closer to home

ASHFIELD — After traveling more than 100 miles every day between his home in Enfield, Conn., and his job in Ashfield, full-time Police Chief Patrick Droney is leaving his job Jan. 3 to take a position that’s closer to home.

“I just needed to get something that was going to work out better for my family,” he said. “Also, I think the town would be better off having somebody (as chief) who lives closer to the town.”

Droney submitted a letter of resignation to the Selectboard this week. He said he had mixed feelings about leaving, and had taken the job intending to eventually move closer to Ashfield.

“However, (because of) the economic situation in the area and the reality of working in a small town, I realized that we would not be able to get to a point where it made economic sense for me to relocate closer to town,” he said. “(Residents) need someone who lives closer to town and who can respond up here in a timely manner, in an emergency.”

Droney will be working in Enfield as a “loss-prevention supervisor” at Brooks Brothers, a clothing chain that has its corporate headquarters and distribution center there.

“Being able to work in my hometown five minutes from home is obviously a huge bonus,” he said. “I will miss police work, but ... after 30-something years, I’m OK with that. I’m looking forward to the new challenge.”

Only 21/2 of those policing years were spent in Ashfield, but Droney’s hiring in March 2011 came when the town was still in turmoil over allegations made against its former full-time police chief, John Svoboda, who had resigned in December 2009. These allegations had included inappropriate language and sexual harassment.

John Cotton, a former police chief from Williamsburg, served as a part-time interim chief until Droney was hired.

As the new full-time chief, Droney’s first priority was to restore the community’s trust in the police department. Droney said he led a community survey, “to get their perception of the police department and what they were looking for.” He said the department did a lot of community outreach, for instance by assisting with the Children’s Farmers Markets, which are held Wednesday afternoons in summer, in front of Ashfield Hardware.

Also the police and fire departments hosted outdoor movie nights for families in summer, projecting the films against the firehouse wall. The police have also participated more in special events at Sanderson Academy and led programs for senior citizens about household hazards and scams.

“We wanted to show people we weren’t just here for law enforcement,” he said.

Other community outreach efforts he led included collecting town donations to help the victims of a June 2011 tornado in the Springfield area, and the “Stuff a Cruiser” Christmas toy campaign.

When hired, Droney also was asked to review and revise the town’s police handbook. “I did a lot of work with the policies, getting them up to Massachusetts accreditation standards,” he said.

The Selectboard accepted Droney’s resignation with regret and will probably discuss the police department at its next board meeting on Dec. 30.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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