Hadley police ranks strained by illness, state rules

Posted: 12/27/2022 7:48:23 PM

Modified: 27/12/2022 19:47:36

HADLEY — Police reform legislation in Massachusetts and the health issues of several officers are making it difficult to maintain the Hadley Police Department at full strength.

On the evening of December 21, when the Select Committee appointed Officer Jacob Marini as Acting Sergeant to fill the position occupied by Staff Sergeant. Michael Romano as he goes on leave due to a recent diagnosis of leukemia, Police Chief Michael Mason has successfully appealed to hire a new full-time officer.

“We cannot continue to operate under these circumstances,” Mason said.

He explained that two officers were out with COVID, one officer was worried about a possible broken foot and another officer had just returned from sick leave, while a detective was handling three major investigations.

In addition to Mason, the department currently has two lieutenants, three sergeants, a staff sergeant, 10 full-time officers and two part-time officers.

But the Municipal Police Training Commission and the Peace Officers Standards Training Commission, both created from state police reform legislation, mean some officers may no longer be eligible for work under waivers and exemptions.

“I found out that I might end up having to change the titles of two of my full-time officers to part-time officers, reduce their hours, thereby removing two other officers from the full-time ranks for a while, just so that ‘they can finish the new bridge academy and then put them back on full-time when they’re done,’ Mason said.

Until he obtains a new full-time officer, this will incur overtime, and it is uncertain whether he will have enough in the department’s remaining budget to cover these costs, noting that the use of overtime has plagued the department for a number of years.

Mason said the request at this point, to open the process of hiring a full-time officer to replace the officer on sick leave, is a good one.

“This advice has been very good for our department. This city has been very good for our department,” Mason said.

Romano, who was the school resource officer and with Hadley Police for nearly 10 years, has been on leave since November. A public Facebook post on the department’s page informed the community of his diagnosis:

“At 38 and newly married, Sgt. Romano was recently diagnosed with leukemia, after feeling unwell for several months.

The Select Committee approved the hiring, Marini’s appointment, and the transfer of the department’s sick bank time to Romano, in a unanimous vote.

“We understand what you’re up against,” said board member Molly Keegan.

Even with the challenges, Mason noted the department’s successes, including one involving Marini on the morning of December 21. Marini, accompanied by K9 Fitzgerald and in training with the State Police K9 Unit, was asked to assist Holyoke Police in a search following a car accident on Main Street. This accident led Holyoke officers to discover two firearms after the operator fled on foot.

K9 Fitzgerald started a trail and after crossing several residential backyards and a park ended up in the area of ​​Lower Westfield Road and Highway 5. There the dog continued to follow into the woods where a bag containing four additional firearms was located and returned. to the officers of Holyoke.

Scott Merzbach can be contacted at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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