My Turn: Police chief has proven record of public service 

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Published: 6/21/2022 9:21:59 PM
Modified: 6/21/2022 9:21:39 PM

On June 15, I attended the City Council meeting to participate in the public comment section of the meeting. It was not a typical night as it was a full house. Groups of citizens were in attendance to address the council about various issues. I was there to support Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr. and speak to the resolution brought by Councilor Lapienski asking for a vote of no confidence against our police chief. A councilor I believe should be recalled. But that’s for another day. The resolution did not get a second or a vote from the full council. Well done councilors.

For over 20 years I have known Chief Robert Haigh. Not only as a friend. I worked closely with Robbie as member of the Selectboard, City Council, School Committee and even during my many years as board chairman of Greenfield Community College. Over that period I observed Robbie act only as a professional and caring public servant for all citizens of Greenfield. His primary goal was to make Greenfield a better community and the department a professional law enforcement agency. He has proven himself time and time again. Most recently when obtaining state accreditation. Something not achieved by most departments in Massachusetts.

Today, we sit as a community torn apart by what two officers convinced a six-person jury from Hampshire County. Six people and two officers. Those six people, and both officers who I know well, will not change what I have witnessed firsthand over the past 20 years. I also take this fact into consideration. While a number of people of color spoke in support of Chief Haigh at the public hearing, not one person of color who personally knows Robbie, or has worked with him professionally, spoke against him. I’ll take this a step further. Outside of one by former Police Officer Patrick Buchanan, I know of zero racial complaints directed against Robbie Haigh over his more than 20 years of public service in law enforcement. Not a single one. Not from a member of a police force or a citizen. Feel free to check that fact.

Now I know the response from some will be people are afraid to complain. But again, not once in over 20 years of service? I stand by the facts as I know them to be and by Chief Haigh’s record. With regards to promotions keep in mind as a Selectboard member I was also a police commissioner. Officer Buchanan complained he was not promoted despite scoring well on a test. In my opinion leadership roles do not hinge solely on a good test score. Thankfully there is more to the process. Passing a test is not the path to success. It takes more from a person. Much more. Even more so in public service.  

Do public safety departments across our state and nation need continuous improvement? Absolutely. Are there systemic racial issues everywhere that need to be addressed? Yes. I also fully recognize that I am the picture of white privilege. And I know I need to do better understanding the issues and struggles of others. I too need continuous improvement. Chief Haigh also knows this about himself and his department. But It will take more time. And good leadership. Something I believe, and most of the GPD officers would agree, Chief Haigh can deliver.

Some will disregard this “My Turn” because I am friends with Robbie, fourth generation Greenfield, and have been called a member of “the old guard” because I previously served in local government. Well, that’s all true. But I do care deeply about Greenfield and all who live here.

Tim Farrell lives in Greenfield.


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