New Ashfield police chief to build on community outreach
ASHFIELD — Interim Police Chief Diane Wilder is no stranger to town residents. She has been serving with the Police Department for the past four years.
Wilder, a Leyden native, had served with police departments in Charlemont and Whately before she was hired in Ashfield by then-interim Police Chief John Cotton.
Both Cotton, a retired Williamsburg police chief, and his successor Patrick Droney worked to rebuild public trust in the department, following a scandal involving an earlier police chief in 2009, who was accused of inappropriate behavior. Wilder, who was hired to work 30 hours per week, says the Police Department is now in good shape.
She wants to continue building public trust and to broaden ties with the community.
“It’s been going very well — a pleasant surprise, once I got past the nervousness of ‘being chief,’” she said. “My priorities are to keep the trust-building with the public and to bring a lot more community policing into the town.”
For instance, Wilder is hoping to organize a bike rodeo for school children this summer, as a way to teach them safe bicycling practices. “You set up a course to look like a street, with stop signs and other road signs. It teaches them to be courteous,” she said.
Wilder would also like to revive the town’s participation in “National Night Out,” which is a kind of take-back-the-night against crime.
“But in rural areas, it’s more like a street fair,” says Wilder. She said “stomp out bullying” was the theme of Ashfield’s last National Night Out, in 2012, and the event included hot-air balloon ascents, a bounce house and dunking booth, a pie-eating contest and music. She said there was a bus to transport older residents so that they could participate.
Former Chief Droney started a Christmas “Stuff the Cruiser” campaign, in which residents donate Christmas toys to be given to local families in need. Wilder has been the officer who takes the cruiser to be filled to the Neighbor’s Convenience Store parking lot, giving out coffee and doughnuts in exchange for the toys. Wilder said she plans to continue that tradition.
Most recently, the police chief has been interviewing candidates for two reserve police officer positions. Wilder said the town wants to bring the police department up to six part-timers, including herself, “so we can have more coverage of the town.”
Wilder and her husband live in Buckland, where they have seven horses.
You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 277