Pittsfield Police Chief Dawley Appointed Permanently

Pittsfield Police Chief Dawley Appointed Permanently

PITTSFIELD — After nearly a year of serving as the interim chief, Thomas C. Dawley II has been officially appointed as the permanent chief of the Pittsfield Police Department. Mayor Peter Marchetti made the announcement on Wednesday, highlighting Dawley’s leadership and dedication throughout his career.

“Tom has shown tremendous leadership and resolve throughout his career with the PPD and in his prior roles,” said Marchetti. “Policing isn’t always easy and there are high expectations. I know that Tom will rise to the challenge and serve this community with steadfast dedication, empathy, and diligence.”

Dawley, 51, expressed his excitement about taking on the role permanently. He has been a veteran of the department for over 20 years and has outlined his top priorities, which include focusing on officer wellness and improving staffing and retention within the force. The department currently employs about 91 people, but Dawley aims to increase that number to 97 by the end of the year.

“If we’re not fully staffed and together, we can’t serve you,” Dawley said. “The biggest part is making sure of the wellness of my officers to be on the street because if they’re not happy or they’re not well, they can’t serve the community that we serve.”

Dawley also plans to work closely with Mayor Marchetti on new initiatives to change how the department engages with individuals experiencing mental health crises or struggling with drug abuse. He supports the city’s decision to expand the existing co-responder program, which he believes will serve as a guide for his officers.

The new chief aims to shift the department’s approach from “community policing” to “community engagement.” “Community engagement is a big part of me and a big part of my life,” Dawley said. “I grew up in Pittsfield, I have roots here. I want to see Pittsfield succeed and I want to see my department succeed. We’re not going to fail.”

Dawley promised to make Pittsfield the safest city in Berkshire County and Massachusetts. His efforts have already been recognized by members of the greater Berkshire County public safety and law enforcement community. Berkshire District Attorney Timothy Shugrue, Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler, and former police Chief Michael Wynn were among those who celebrated Dawley’s appointment.

Shugrue credited the Pittsfield Police Department, under Dawley’s leadership, for removing “hundreds of thousands of dollars of cocaine and other illegal drugs off the streets of Pittsfield” in the last year. He noted that in the last six weeks alone, the department was responsible for removing “nine high-level drug dealers” from the streets.

“While Chief Dawley is only the chief of one city, the effect of his office and what his officers do resonate throughout the entire county,” Shugrue said. “A safer Pittsfield, believe it or not, means a safer Berkshire County.”

Born and raised in Pittsfield, Dawley is a 1991 graduate of Pittsfield High School. He has settled in the city with his wife and two children and said the success of the city is deeply personal to him. Dawley earned a bachelor’s degree from Western New England College and a master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University.

Before joining the Pittsfield police in 2002, Dawley worked as a correctional officer at the Berkshire County House of Correction, a patrolman at the Hinsdale Police Department, and an associate court officer at the Berkshire County trial court. He was initially hired as a patrolman and became an integral part of the city’s policing of gang and drug activity as Pittsfield’s representative to the FBI gang task force in Springfield. He continued to climb the ranks, serving as a detective, patrol sergeant, patrol lieutenant, and eventually the detective bureau captain overseeing the crime scene, digital forensics, and anti-street crime units.

Dawley had been working in this position for a little more than a year when former Mayor Linda Tyer appointed him as a temporary replacement for Chief Michael Wynn, who announced his retirement in December 2022 with an exit date of July 2023. Wynn led the department for 15 years, 10 of which were as interim police chief. Marchetti said that when it came to finding the next permanent leader of the department, expediency was crucial.

Tyer committed to allowing her successor to select the next leader of the department, and Marchetti said that soon after election day, he and the former mayor worked to initiate the civil service search process. Marchetti said that process made clear that “our No. 1 guy is Chief Dawley.”

First-term Mayor Peter Marchetti named interim chief Thomas Dawley as the successor to the Pittsfield Police Department’s last permanent leader, Michael Wynn, who stepped down last July. Dawley, who joined the force in 2002 and rose to the rank of captain before taking on the interim chief role last year, detailed the joint co-responder diversion team his department launched earlier in 2024.

“It’s officers, my officers, going out with the co-responders,” he explained. “What they do is, they go out, they work hand in hand with our co-responders, they go to calls for mental health, they help with Section 35s, they help with Section 12s, they also do a lot of follow-up. So, what it does is, it’s a softer approach to mental health, then our officers being taken off the street to go to the mental health calls. So, these officers who are in soft uniform go out with the co-responders, do the follow-ups with the co-responders. They, like I said, they go to the Section 35s, the Section 12s. So, my officers remain on the street and remain on their beats. Because I’ll be honest with you- Mental health, obviously, is something in the city that needs to be addressed not only by the police department, but we also have other resources that we need to get involved as well. So, with that being said, it’s up and coming. We’re walking before we run with this program. So far, I think it’s been a great success. Currently, we have about four or five officers that are not only being trained to do this type of work, but also to be on the streets with these co-responders and know what they’re doing.”

Dawley was asked to identify his top priority as head of Berkshire County’s largest police force. “Well, first and foremost is my department,” he answered. “I wanted, like I said before, I wanted to make sure that the staffing levels are up, my command staff and first frontline supervisors are staffed, because if we’re not fully staffed and together, we can’t serve you. So, the biggest part is making sure, A, the wellness of my officers to be on the street, because if they’re not happy, or if they’re not well, they can’t serve the community that they serve. That, I believe, is probably the most important thing, is officer wellness. Like I said, we work for the community. I work for the mayor, they work for me. So, it’s a trickledown effect. If I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do by leading this department, then my officers are not expected to do as well.”

Fully staffing the department is another one of Dawley’s objectives. “We are budgeted for 97 officers, okay?” he said. “Right now, we’re probably about 91, 92. We have three in the academy, we have a requisition right now for about four or five new officers. I have an officer in field training that’s going to be graduating from that shortly, and I have an officer that’s going to be going to the academy in, I think it’s October of this year. Now with that being said, I might have also a transfer from another city or town, so, with our fingers crossed, I think in the first time, correct me if I’m wrong retired Chief Wynn, that we’ll be at full staff by the end of this year.”

That effort comes as the pool of potential candidates has dramatically shriveled. “It’s a great difficulty,” said Dawley. “You know, when many of us got on, it was, you know, there were hundreds of people taking the civil service tests. We don’t see that anymore. Obviously, with social media and stuff we get shed in a bad light. So, people don’t want to take up on this career.”

After multiple election cycles where politicians have campaigned on baseless claims of rising crime in Pittsfield – including the 2023 mayoral race and the 2022 district attorney’s race – Dawley tells WAMC that the numbers paint a far different picture of the community. “I think there’s just false positives out there,” he said. “To be honest, I think people are thinking that Pittsfield is an awful place, it’s dangerous to walk down downtown and stuff like that. The statistics don’t show that. Statistically, Pittsfield is a very safe place. Yes, we have our shootings, our drug seizures, our domestics, which obviously are bad things that we deal with every day. But looking at the data, Pittsfield is very safe.”

Per the Pittsfield PD’s most recent statistics, the city has seen a 36% drop in major crimes over the past five years.

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