By Amy Porter
CHESTER – For the past two years the towns of Chester and Blandford have been working cooperatively on creating a shared police force.
This effort was a collaboration with the boards of Selectmen and town administrators, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and Police Chief Daniel Ilnicky, who was sworn in as chief in Blandford in September of 2018 and has served as chief in Chester for over 10 years.
In 2018, the towns were aided by a $15,000 grant from the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s Division of Local Technical Assistance for a joint study to explore a combined police force between the two towns, said Blandford Town Administrator Joshua Garcia.
Services of the Novak Consulting Group were retained to perform the study and were tasked with reviewing the operations of both police departments to assess potential benefits or obstacles associated with sharing of personnel, facilities, or equipment.
The report resulted in several recommendations which Blandford and Chester, through the boards of Selectmen, have committed to pursue, Garcia said. Throughout the study, they found the towns were uniquely positioned to succeed in some sort of shared service policing arrangement for the following reasons:
Both towns have part-time police departments that work limited schedules, generally providing less than 25 hours of patrol per week, with coverage provided during other hours by the Massachusetts State Police, a situation that allows for considerable flexibility in structuring a combined department.
Both towns employ the same part-time chief of police, who is familiar with the characteristics of each town, and Blandford’s Police Department had no other employees at the time of the study, leaving it in a position to rebuild from the ground up.
Chester officers have also been periodically patrolling Blandford in the absence of regularly scheduled Blandford patrols, and have begun to develop mutual familiarity with the town and its residents.
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