December 22, 2005
After Mr. Gildea recommended acting Chief Parizeau in executive decision, the council reconvened and announced their decision. Shortly afterward, during a second private session, Mr. Gildea phoned both men to inform them of the council’s decision. Last Saturday, the two final police chief candidates interviewed with the town administrator and the entire council. Mr. Gildea said the body worked towards finalizing their choice, slimming the applicant pool from six to two. “We look for a lot of different qualities,” Mayor Skibitsky told The Westfield Leader after the meeting. He said the new chief must “be a good communicator.” The mayor also indicated that he looked for a person who was “fair, but firm,” had “good listening skills” and was “respected for his knowledge.” “Both candidates met the qualities,” he said. “There are slight differences, but both have stellar records, great files.”
The mayor said his goal is to further a “community-oriented” police force. “I’m looking for a transparent, on-street team that’s out meeting people. John (Parizeau) will move that forward.” “He (Parizeau) has ideas on personnel matters, budget, public safety and community policing,” the mayor added. Chief Parizeau told The Westfield Leader that he’s excited about the opportunity and “can’t wait to start.” He mentioned that one of his primary goals is to increase the size of the traffic bureau. “There are a lot of complaints about speeding and accidents. We need to replace the people who have left and increase the size.”
In the past, Chief Parizeau has been integral in conducting traffic studies and surveys and “bringing the department up to present technology,” including installing computers in police cars. “I want to start a quick review of everything and see where our manpower is being used and shift around,” he said. The chief considers himself a “team player, who will not dictate from the top down.” He said he will not be “a chief who rules with an iron fist,” viewing the job as a team effort. He said he will evaluate the entire department and “judge everything and see what everyone can add to the department.”
Ultimately, he forsees a “fair and impartial department.” The town offered eight individuals the opportunity to apply and four lieutenants and both captains — Captain Auchter and Captain Parizeau did so. Mr. Gildea said the applicants underwent a psychological analysis — something that every new town hire experiences. While an important aspect of the selection process, the psychological analysis “is only one piece of the puzzle. It’s not a deciding factor,” Mr. Gildea said. “It’s an independent look at a candidate’s suitability for chief.” He said the town examines the characteristics to make sure the person is not “unstable.”
The council also investigated each candidate’s education, background, work history and own personal and management styles. Just as in the hiring of the fire chief, Mr. Gildea surveyed the police to gauge their feeling of the department. “We of course didn’t ask who should be chief, but we got a profile of the person we need.”
While acknowledging that no “normal procedure” exists for selecting a replacement, he said the severity of the position warranted a look at the lieutenant rank. “My feeling is that this is so crucial of a decision for the town and the department, I want to make sure we weren’t missing things. The council supported my decision 100 percent to open things up to the lower ranks.” “It comes down to intangibles,” he added.
Mr. Gildea agreed that the police department’s profile was heightened in the wake of a claim filed against Mr. Tracy by Detective Sandra Chambers. Detective Chambers alleged favoritism in the department led to her termination when a similar offense committed by another officer was handled differently. In addition, claims were made that the police department supposedly conducted background checks against residents who spoke out against the planned parking deck. Mr. Gildea said that in light of the Chief Tracy situation, the town subjected applicants to questions pertaining to their aptitude to handle specific situations such as those over the past year. “I wouldn’t be a good manager if we didn’t consider those things,” Mr. Gildea said. “Absolutely, we need to get the sense how they would react.
Questions were asked to that realm to see how they would react and what their management style would be.” “Policing and managing has changed drastically,” he added. “So, we want someone to adapt to be a modern leader and take things head on, not squelch anything,” he added. He also admitted that the “perception (of the department) is not the greatest,” but what occurred recently (Tracy situation, alleged unauthorized background checks) is really “few and far between.” “We’re looking at the pieces and asking the appropriate questions,” said Mr. Gildea.
Saying that Chief Tracy “did a good job,” Mr. Gildea noted that filling the vacancy “provides an opportunity or a challenge to put a fresh face on the department or the opportunity to turn over a new leaf and change the culture.” No decision has been made on the new chief’s salary. As with the fire chief, the town fills the position, and then undergoes a “short negotiation” with the candidate.
Mr. Gildea said the town must take into consideration that Chief Tracy’s salary is on the books until the end of January. While not knowing the range, he estimated that the salary would be between $80,000 and $120,000. The swearing in should take place the first week or two in January and the compensation will follow shortly. Mr. Gildea said he was recommending that the new chief be sworn in during the town’s reorganization meeting on Tuesday, January 3.
Captain Parizeau was named acting chief in September. He was promoted to the rank of captain on February 1 of this year. He graduated from the College of New Jersey and was appointed to the department on March 29, 1981. He pointed out to The Westfield Leader that he is the first chief to hold a four-year degree in criminal justice. He was promoted to the rank of plainclothes officer on February 1, 1987 and assigned to the Juvenile Detective Bureaus, Sergeant on July 1, 1988, Detective Sergeant on January 1, 1997 and Lieutenant of Police on December 27, 1999. He has served as the Records Bureau Commander and is the department’s informational technology and media officer.