After Months of Tumult, a New Police Chief Sworn in in Townsend

TOWNSEND -- After months of turmoil gripped the Police Department, officials struck a celebratory tone Tuesday night as the new chief and deputy were sworn in at formal ceremony.

Rick Bailey, who had been leading the department in an interim capacity since April, is now officially chief on a full-time contract. James Sartell, who is chief in Hollis, New Hampshire, will soon take over as Townsend’s deputy.

Town officials hope the two will bring stability to the department and allow the town to move forward after a contentious year that saw several police employees face internal investigations, a chief fired for alleged insubordination and a backlash from a vocal group of residents who felt police were unfairly targeted.

In remarks before an audience of close to 100 residents, police officers from various communities and town officials, Board of Selectmen Chairman Gordon Clark acknowledged that the department had seen “bumps in the road the past six months.”

“Today marks a new era of policing here in Townsend,” Clark said. “Tonight is about looking ahead.”

Audience members filled the Great Hall for the ceremony and for a reception afterward, complete with a cake congratulating Bailey and Sartell. Police officers from Nashua and Hollis, where Bailey and Sartell have worked previously, attended, as did Massachusetts State Police to provide a formal color guard and bagpiper.

Bailey said he hopes Townsend can begin a “new chapter” under his and Sartell’s leadership, and he thanked various town figures for their support while he was interim chief.

“The overwhelming support from the community,” Bailey told a reporter after the ceremony. “We’re moving in the right direction.”

Sartell, 47, will retire from his job as chief in Hollis and collect a pension while working as Townsend’s deputy chief. He said Tuesday he expects to remain in New Hampshire until Nov. 3 to oversee Hollis’ budget planning and begin working in Townsend full time on Nov. 6.

After the ceremony, Sartell said he hopes to have a “stabilizing impact” in Townsend.

“I feel very enthusiastic and optimistic,” he said. “I’m here for the long haul.”

Both Bailey and Sartell were introduced by former colleagues who praised their merits. Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan also spoke about the importance of community policing.

Bailey took over in April after former Chief Robert Eaton was terminated by selectmen. The board decided last month to post a job opening -- albeit only on the bulletin board in Town Hall, not online -- for the permanent chief’s position. Bailey ultimately agreed to a three-year contract with an annual salary of $130,000.

The job opening for the deputy chief position was posted both on the bulletin board and online. Sartell was one of three candidates interviewed. Sartell will be offered a one-year memorandum of agreement with an annual salary of about $120,930. The MOA will automatically renew each year unless town notifies him six months in advance that it does not wish to do so.

He and Bailey worked together previously, and Bailey is still listed as a part-time patrol officer in Hollis. However, both men say Bailey would only be used for an occasional event or emergency detail.

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski.