Changes come to Greenfield Police Dept.
Sgt. Stephen Westerling shakes hands with Chief Robert Haigh Jr. after Westerling was sworn in as sergeant Friday. (Recorder/David Rainville) Purchase photo reprints »
GREENFIELD — The Police Department ushered in a new era Friday, beginning with the promotion of a 24-year veteran of the force.
Sgt. Stephen Westerling was officially sworn in Friday, after spending more than two years as a provisional sergeant.
Westerling joined the department in 2000, after spending seven years as an officer on the University of Massachusetts Police Department in Amherst.
“UMass was a great place to start,” he said. “It’s a great training ground. You deal with so many different things.”
He said he became interested in law enforcement because of his family’s military history.
“It seemed like a natural progression.”
So, he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Westfield State College and applied to the UMass police force.
Westerling’s promotion is one of several recent changes to the department. A restructuring began today.
“I think the changes will help to streamline our structure,” said Chief Robert Haigh Jr., who became the department’s top cop in November.
Two provisional lieutenants have been returned to their permanent positions as sergeants, and two provisional sergeants will resume their roles as patrol officers. The provisional positions were used to provide patrol supervision, as the department had several higher ranking officers retire in recent years. Since the department uses the Civil Service process, officers must pass tests to be approved for promotions.
The department will also bring in a Civil Service-approved consulting firm to help find a deputy chief, a promotion Haigh hopes will come from within the department’s ranks. Another officer will also be promoted to a sergeant’s position.
The next promotions are still months off. The town will seek bids before hiring a consulting firm, and the new sergeant won’t begin until a deputy chief is brought on board.
Haigh is trying to build the department back to a “fully staffed” roster of 40 officers. Once that goal is reached, he said, the department will again be reorganized.
A new badge and patch adopted today for patrol and supervisory officers symbolize the changes to the department.
Haigh said the current reorganization will allow police to focus their efforts where they’re needed — on the streets.
Haigh hopes an increased police presence and bigger patrol force will help the town combat what he and others have called an epidemic of heroin and opioid use.
Other changes coming include grant-funded technology upgrades, providing rugged “Toughbook” laptops for cruisers, tablets for detectives to use on-the-go and new reporting software to help cut down on paper use.
The department will also restructure its website, www.greenfieldpd.org, to make it more informative and the department more accessible. It will also provide biographical sketches and contact information for all of the officers and showcase department history.
Haigh said he would like to build a stronger relationship between officers and the community they serve. He hopes an informal “cops and coffee” event will help forge new relationships.
“Once or twice a month, beginning in April, we’ll have an officer set up at a local breakfast spot, people can come in, we’ll buy them a cup of coffee and we can chat,” he explained. “I think it’s a great idea and I’ll be the first one to do it.”
Haigh said interested Greenfield businesses can get involved by calling officer Christopher Rowell at 773-5411, ext. 1436.
You can reach David Rainville at: email@example.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279