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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Charlestown chooses from outside CPD for a new chief

Decision may prevent internal dissension
By Will Collette

Due to apparent glitches in the Clerkbase system – mainly failure to send a signal – your intrepid Progressive Charlestown team had to count on the Sun’s new reporter for Charlestown, David Pepin, for the news on who our new Chief of Police will be.

David’s article went live on the Sun’s website this morning and will appear in today’s print edition. Read his article by clicking here.

The Town Council announced its vote to hire Captain Jeffrey Allen of the South Kingstown Police to replace retired Chief Jack Shippee.

Captain Allen, now Chief Allen, is a native of Narragansett and has lived in Carolina village since 1988.

Allen’s two in-house competitors, Lt. Patrick McMahon and Mike Paliotta, were positive in their comments about Allen as their new boss, and expect the members of the force to rally behind him.

I’ve heard from South Kingstown residents that our new Chief Allen was very big on “community policing,” something that former CPD Jack Shippee always tried to instill into the Charlestown Police force.

Those of us at the August 20 Town Council meeting saw a good example of community policing in the responses of Acting Chief Mike Paliotta to a proposal by Councilor Gregg Avedisian to impose a town-wide curfew on teenagers. Paliotta reported that he was already aware of the specific incident that sparked Avedisian’s curfew proposal, and that the trouble was limited to a few individuals.

He said the CPD had already talked to the youths, their parents, to the schools and social services, as well as increased patrols, and the problems seemed to have abated. Paliotta said he felt a curfew that would penalize all youth in town was an unnecessary infringement on their civil rights when the police could focus on changing the behavior of the actual troublemakers.

It was an interesting exchange and one you might want to try to watch on Clerkbase, if you can get it to work.

As a Captain in the SK Police, Jeff Allen apparently takes a very similar approach. South Kingstown Housing Authority Chair Patricia Breslin sent Charlestown a support letter for Allen, noting that he served as police liaison to the Housing Authority for seven years.

She said he always came to meetings and, at the beginning, was often the target for angry tenants and residents with pent-up resentments toward the police. Even with people screaming at him, says Breslin, he would answer in a calm and assertive manner.

According to Breslin, within a few months, most residents stopped looking at the police as adversaries. Complaints and accusations against the police plummeted while cooperation with the police increased.

I know from direct working experience that folks in subsidized housing developments can be a tough and skeptical audience, so if Captain Allen, now CPD Chief Allen, was able to, as Breslin wrote, win the “trust and respect of the tenants,”  he should do just fine in handling Charlestown’s many neighborhood feuds.

Welcome to Charlestown, Chief Allen.