Top cop choice may be on force

HUDSON – Barring a drastic change of direction, the next man to wear the chief of police shield will only need to move down the hall to occupy his new office.

Five ranking Hudson police veterans – two captains and three lieutenants – are candidates to succeed Chief Richard Gendron, who plans to retire at the end of 2008. It’s a field that town administrator Steve Malizia, who is overseeing the ongoing screening and interviewing process, holds in high regard.

“These candidates, in my and the (board of selectmen’s) opinion, are all very qualified to lead the department,” Malizia said. “They’ve all worked in this partment for some time and are part of a highly trained, nationally accredited workforce.”

“We see no need to look outside (of the department) to replace Chief Gendron,” he added.

To assist in the process, the town has contracted with Municipal Resources Inc., the Meredith-based firm founded in 1989 that specializes in assisting towns and cities with personnel recruitment and hiring, among other services.

The captains vying for the top cop job are Jason Lavoie, a 17-year department veteran who currently supervises the uniform and detective divisions and the department’s prosecutors; and Don Breault, who has been a captain for three years and heads the support services division.

The three lieutenants are Bill Avery, a 15-year Hudson officer and three-year lieutenant; David Bianchi, also a three-year lieutenant who joined the department 12 years ago; and Robert Tousignant, the most veteran of the lot, with 27 years on the force, the last four as lieutenant.

Each candidate will be interviewed by two different panels, one made up of local professionals and the other of Hudson citizens, Malizia said. MRI representatives will facilitate the interviews, which are scheduled to take place next week.

Malizia said interviewers, which include members of local business and citizens panels and Municipal Resources facilitators, hope to trim the field to two, possibly three, finalists after the first round of interviews, and to choose the successful candidate in mid-December.

The police department is also in the midst of renewing its national accreditation, a process that hit high gear last week when assessors from the Commission on Accredidation for Law Enforcement Agencies came to town for several days to examine all aspects of the department and hold a public hearing.

Gendron said CALEA will notify the town and the new police chief on whether it qualifies for recertification in early 2009.

That the department has held CALEA certification since 2003, Malizia said, is one of the main reasons officials are content with choosing from in-house candidates.

“We feel the department is going in the right direction . . . we’re not looking to make any radical changes at this juncture,” he said. “If we thought we needed change, then we’d probably be looking for someone from outside (the department) to help us achieve that.”