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Dodge hired on as Montague Police chief

MONTAGUE — Charles “Chip” Dodge III will continue to lead the Montague Police Department, now in a permanent capacity.

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Wednesday night to offer the permanent chief’s position to Dodge, the current acting chief, contingent upon successful contract negotiations.

The decision followed interviews with both candidates: Dodge and acting Sgt. Christopher Lapointe.

Selectman Mark Fairbrother said both candidates gave very similar responses but he felt Dodge demonstrated the benefit of greater experience.

“Mr. Dodge exhibited a more seasoned, perhaps, understanding of the job and how things should be done,” Fairbrother said.

Town Administrator Frank Abbondanzio said he felt both would make good chiefs, but he had been very impressed with Dodge while working with him over the past three months and he has the benefit of direct supervisory experience.

Abbondanzio also said the selectmen were meant to select Dodge under the Civil Service process unless there was a compelling reason not to.

Civil Service ranked Dodge above Lapointe based on an assessment administered in October by a private contractor under Civil Service supervision, an alternative process the selectmen chose after all local candidates failed the written chief’s exam in the spring.

Chairman Christopher Boutwell agreed both were strong candidates and said Dodge has done a wonderful job at the helm.

“He knows the nuts and bolts of the department inside and out and he will make a great chief,” Boutwell said.

Selectman Patricia Allen was not present to vote.

Both candidates were born and raised in Montague and live in town with their families.

Dodge, 41, has worked in Montague for his entire law enforcement career, beginning as a part-timer in 1992 and hired full time in 1993.

Following the previous chief’s retirement last fall he was promoted from sergeant to acting staff sergeant, and in July he became acting chief after Christopher Williams — appointed over Dodge in the fall — stepped down.

Lapointe, 31, began his career in Bernardston as a part-timer in 2002 and left the department as a full time sergeant in 2005 to join the Montague department, appointed acting sergeant in July.

Both hold bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and Lapointe earned a master’s degree as well.

Both gave similar responses to many of the questions posed by the selectmen.

The two presented different approaches to the concept of community policing, with both saying it is important for officers to be approachable and accessible and stressing the idea of foot or bicycle patrol.

Dodge said he has assigned one officer to patrol downtown on the street and visit businesses and has had great feedback.

Lapointe said he would rotate officers through the schools and downtown.

Asked their policies on high speed chases, Lapointe said they are dangerous and unnecessary thanks to modern technology.

Dodge gave the same response, with the qualification that chases are unnecessary for the 99 percent of instances in which a driver flees due to a minor infraction but necessary when a life is in danger.

Dodge also alluded to an incident in 2000 which led to his demotion.

No charges were filed in the off-duty incident involving a subordinate, in which the other officer allegedly assaulted Dodge and damaged his personal vehicle after seeing him driving with his wife, according to findings of the Civil Service Commission, which faulted Dodge and other officers for poor judgment and attempting to cover up the incident.

“I was young; I made a young decision; I’m much older now and I’ve learned a lot,” Dodge said.

Dodge said he learned how valuable his job, family and coworkers are, how easily he could lose them and the importance of setting a good example.

Reached Wednesday evening after receiving the phone call from the Town Hall offering the job, Dodge said he was looking forward to it.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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