Former Greenfield Police Chief Haigh: ‘I am forced to say goodbye’

Former Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr.

Former Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Todd Dodge has been appointed by Mayor Ginny Desorgher to serve as the acting/provisional Greenfield police chief.

Todd Dodge has been appointed by Mayor Ginny Desorgher to serve as the acting/provisional Greenfield police chief. COURTESY/CITY OF GREENFIELD

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 02-21-2024 9:14 PM

Modified: 02-22-2024 12:03 PM


GREENFIELD – In his retirement letter to Mayor Ginny Desorgher, former Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr. said he was stepping down “because of your refusal to support this department and your chief.”

“It is with such disappointment and sadness that I must retire to protect myself, my family, and the department. The people of the Greenfield Police Department deserve support from above, and deserve to be recognized for what they do, and should be,” Haigh wrote. “Against my desire to continue to be the chief of police for the city of Greenfield, I am forced to say goodbye.”

The city released Haigh’s Feb 15 letter to the Recorder in response to a public record’s request.

In the wake of Haigh’s retirement, Desorgher has named Lt. Todd Dodge as the department’s acting/provisional police chief until a permanent one can be found. A timeline was yet to be provided on the permanent police chief search as of Wednesday.

“I am honored, to say the least, that (Desorgher) has the confidence in me to do this,” Dodge, 51, said in a brief phone interview, noting that is “not to say I don’t bring a lot to the table. I’m very confident we can move in the direction this Police Department needs to go.”

A nearly 26-year veteran of the department, Dodge joined Greenfield in July 1998 and has taken on numerous roles within the agency, including time as a detective, motorcycle patrol officer, field training officer, bicycle control, special response team, sergeant, corporal and as logistics lieutenant.

Dodge said he has two priorities for the department as he steps into the role: ensure the patrol officers have stable leadership that supports them and, on a personal level, earn the permanent title for the position, which will then further enhance stability.

“The quicker we can get stable, the better it is for everyone,” Dodge said. “I took this on because I wanted to be permanent and I want to start making some lasting changes.”

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The move to appoint Dodge comes after the city announced Haigh’s retirement from the department Friday morning. In his letter, Haigh explained the department was in “great turmoil” when he was brought on as chief in 2013, as there was “a shortage of staff, no permanent leadership, and low morale.”

At the same time, he was the Orange police chief and he said he had “no desire” to leave at that point.

Haigh noted the “adversarial and, quite frankly, nasty” public relationship between the department and Mayor’s Office, but he proposed a plan with then-Mayor William Martin to “make Greenfield into a department that was respected across the state,” which led to him being offered the job.

“Some felt I was a political appointment; however, I knew I wasn’t, and the notion was completely inaccurate,” Haigh wrote.

He then laid out the numerous accomplishments the department was able to achieve during his time as chief, including the recruitment of more officers after getting the department out of Civil Service, reviving the K-9 program, establishing a co-response partnership with Clinical & Support Options and state accreditation. Haigh also served as president of the Western Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association – the first for Greenfield – and he still serves as a member of the FBI Executive Board in Springfield.

Haigh faced public criticism the past couple of years in the wake of the 2022 verdict in Hampshire County Superior Court that found that he and the Police Department racially discriminated against former Officer Patrick Buchanan, the department’s only Black officer at the time, when he was denied a promotion in 2014 and then again in 2020. Buchanan was first awarded $92,930 in lost back wages and $350,000 for emotional distress. The judgment now totals closer to $1 million — an award that includes about $289,000 in interest and other statutory costs, and nearly $279,000 in attorney fees that were awarded by the court.

Following the verdict, Haigh was placed on paid administrative leave for about four months, but was reinstated by then-Mayor Roxann Wedegartner in September 2022. During his leave, Deputy Police Chief William Gordon served as acting chief.

Gordon was originally tapped to resume responsibilities as acting police chief, as laid out in his contract, on Saturday. He will continue to serve as deputy chief.

As Dodge assumes the position, he said they are going to expand the department’s community outreach measures, while continuing to build relationships with other agencies in order bring exemplary service to Greenfield residents.

“I can hopefully prove to this city how absolutely fantastic the men and women of this agency are,” Dodge said.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com.