DIGHTON (WBSM) — The Dighton Police union and a selectman are questioning how town officials are handling the hiring of the department’s next chief, as those officials have named a finalist for the job.

According to a February 22 release from the Town of Dighton, Fairhaven Police Sergeant Timothy F. Souza has been selected as the finalist for the position, and he will have an interview before the Dighton Board of Selectmen on Wednesday, February 28.

In a Thursday evening Facebook post, the Dighton Police Officers Local 306 wrote that it feels “the entire hiring process for Chief of Police has been conducted under a vail (sic) of secrecy.”

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The department is in need of a new chief following the resignation of former chief Shawn Cronin, after Cronin was charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with insider trading last year. George Nichols was appointed Acting Chief in his place.

In its release, the Town of Dighton stated that Souza’s selection as finalist followed “an extensive professional hiring process approved by the Board of Selectmen in late November 2023 that included an independent assessment center, a preliminary interview, and the submission of written responses to more than a dozen essay questions.”

The Town also said there were a total of 20 applicants for the position.

“We are fortunate to have received widespread interest from a range of candidates with the goal of becoming Dighton’s Chief of Police,” Town Administrator Michael Mullen, Jr. said in a release. “The process that led to announcing Sgt. Souza as the finalist was a serious, professional and qualifications-based process that was approached with the utmost respect, discretion, and responsibility.”

The hiring committee consisted of Mullen, Board of Selectmen Chair Peter Caron, and Human Resources Coordinator Karin Brady.

Souza’s qualifications do not appear to be in question by the union; the 27-year veteran of the Fairhaven Police Department has been a sergeant for the past 17 years, “including as the department’s administrative sergeant with the responsibility of budget management, hiring, and related tasks,” according to the release, among other qualifications such as serving as commander of the Southeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council.

Rather, the union’s issue is with the way he was selected.

“While we do understand an appointment of a Police Chief requires an intensive search and hiring process, we feel members of our agency were not offered a fair opportunity to pursue this roll (sic),” the union wrote.

“The Town Administrator and Board of Selectmen had no intention of ever hiring within our department and led the Acting Police Chief to believe he would be assuming the role of Police Chief upon completion of the hiring process,” the union wrote. “Our other qualified candidate in our agency was never even offered an interview.”

Mullen added in the Town’s release that it is “important that Dighton’s next Chief of Police fit the culture of our close-knit police department,” although it seems like that closeness is in question by the union.

“This has led to decreased morale as the opportunity for advancement within the agency has again been halted. We are concerned that some of our members may seek employment with other agencies in order to achieve career progression that is being denied to them by the Board of Selectmen and Town Administrator,” the union wrote.

In its statement, the police union said it found out of the selection of Souza from a Facebook post and simultaneous internal email “before even completing the interview process of the other finalists, including our current Acting Chief.”

“The Community members and the members of this Department have been denied transparency and honesty by the Town Administrator Michael Mullen and Board of Selectmen members Peter Caron and Nicole Mello while leaving Selectmen Leonard Hull in the dark,” the union wrote.

Hull posted his own letter to Dighton residents on his Facebook page this morning, stating he was “deeply troubled by recent events involving the selection process.”

“I trusted that the process would be done fairly, with respect to the candidates, and with integrity, however, as I will show this was not the case,” he wrote.

Hull went on to state that two candidates from within the department found out they were eliminated from contention by members of the community before receiving a rejection letter from Town Hall; he said he later received updates on the remaining candidates “from members of the community and outsiders” even though the process was supposed to be closed to the public.

“Four days ago I received three disturbing calls from Dighton residents complaining that Sgt. Sousa (sic) from Fairhaven was bragging to people he was going to be Dighton’s next police chief,” Hull wrote. “At this point in the process I hadn’t even seen Sousa’s (sic) resume.”

Hull stated that Nichols finding out he was eliminated from community members rather than an official notification, and a Dighton resident who is current a deputy police chief in another community who wasn’t granted an interview, “was a total disrespect” and “a slap in the face,” respectively.

“This process has been flawed from the beginning and has shown a total lack of respect for the Dighton Police Department and a Dighton resident/ Deputy Chief of another community who applied,” Hull wrote.

“This process reeks of the same type of politics that we faced over the library and the Town Meeting Fin Com removals last June," he wrote. "I plead with the residents of Dighton to say they won’t tolerate it anymore. Please come to the next BOS meeting and express your concern.”

Crime Rate Statistics in SouthCoast Towns

Here are the crime rate statistics for SouthCoast communities, utilizing data from 2022, the most recent year available. Annual data is from the Massachusetts Crime Statistics. The number of crimes is a data collection of total arrests, DUI/OUI charges, violent crimes, and hate crimes. The clearance rate is the number of charged crimes divided by the total number of crimes recorded. We listed the SouthCoast towns alphabetically.

Gallery Credit: Ariel Dorsey

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