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Northfield’s acting chief eyes permanent role

Recorder/Paul Franz
Robert Leighton Northfield Chief of Police

Recorder/Paul Franz Robert Leighton Northfield Chief of Police

NORTHFIELD — The town’s acting police chief has decided he’d like to be considered for the permanent position.

Robert Leighton became the town’s acting chief in January on a one-year contract, when former Chief Leonard Crossman Jr. left the department. He recently told the Selectboard that he’s interested in becoming the permanent chief.

“I’m in favor of it,” said Selectboard Chairman John “Jack” Spanbauer. “He’s been on the department for more than 20 years, he knows the community well, and I think he’d be an excellent candidate for the permanent position.”

“He’s essentially been doing the job for 10 months, and I’m not aware of any complaints,” he continued. “He’s handled a lot of difficult situations in a short period, and done so very professionally.”

Spanbauer said the town’s personnel policy advises that the position be advertised unless the town is promoting from within the department. Since that’s the case here, the process can be expedited if the board agrees to dispense with the advertisement.

Spanbauer said he’d like to see a decision made at next week’s Selectboard meeting.

Leighton has 25 years of experience policing the town of Northfield. As the town’s senior officer, he had the full support of the Selectboard, which unanimously voted him into the interim position last December.

Board member Dan Gray had taken it one step farther, and suggested last December that the board forgo the trial period and make Leighton full chief immediately.

“Truthfully, I wasn’t sure in January if I wanted to be the chief,” said Leighton. “Now, I’ve had an opportunity to do the job, and enough time to figure out if I liked it. I like it; it’s just a different type of job.”

Leighton said the position has enabled him to get out into the community more than he could working nights as staff sergeant.

He said he’s learned a lot about the administrative side of police work from his predecessor. Crossman has stayed on as an auxiliary officer, teaching the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program at the elementary school, and giving Leighton advice on running the department.

“Len has absolutely made himself available any time I’ve had a question,” said Leighton. “He’s been a valuable asset; I’m very lucky to have him around.”

Leighton said he never dreamed of becoming chief when he first became a police officer, but has decided that he’d like to finish out his career as head of the department.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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