Westfield Police Commission appoint five to ranking positions

Westfield Police Officer Doug LaValley interviews with the Police Commission during the May 1 meeting (The Westfield News)

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – The city’s police department appointed several officers to ranking positions during a police commission meeting Monday night.

The Westfield Police Commission promoted a total of five ranking officers, filling positions that were left open through both previous and impending retirements. These positions included captain, which has been vacant since then-Capt. Hipolito “Paul” Nunez retired in January, as well as two lieutenant and sergeant positions that will become vacant following a ranking officer’s promotion to captain.

“We are very fortunate to have so many outstanding candidates,” Westfield Police Chief John Camerota said following the interview process yesterday. “It’s a tough decision but I feel we made the right decision.”

For the one captain position, two lieutenants were going for the position—Lt. Jerome Pitoniak and Lt. Laurence “Larry” Valliere.

Pitoniak has 22 years on the Westfield Police Department, including time on patrol, in the traffic bureau and as a sergeant. Previously, he received bachelors and masters degrees from unspecified higher education institutions and worked as a corrections officer in Connecticut and a special officer in Chicopee. Pitoniak also said during his interview that he had a number of accomplishments while on the force, including developing a program that would put automated external defibrillators in each police vehicle and improving relations between the police and fire departments through their charity golf tournament.

Valliere has been with the department full-time for 28 years, which has included time on patrol, as well as time in the detective bureau both as a detective and as a sergeant, before being promoted to lieutenant, which he acts within the traffic bureau. Valliere included his experiences as a detective, where he said he assisted in removing open drug dealing on Elm Street. He also has helped plan special events, including those on the Green in downtown Westfield and is working on the planning from a traffic perspective with organizers for the International Air Show.

The commission unanimously chose Valliere to be appointed to captain, effective May 8.

For the two vacant positions of lieutenant, which will be made vacant with Valliere’s promotion, three sergeants, Eric Hall, Kevin Bard and Steve Dickinson, interviewed for the position.

For Hall, he has served 20 years on the department, including five years as the head of the community police portion of the department, which is where he currently serves. While in that role, Hall acquired a downtown office for the community police and organized a variety of school programs to educate students and improve community and police relations. He also served on the Board of Directors at the YMCA in Westfield for nine years, helping to choose a CEO for the organization.

Bard has a total of 31 years in law enforcement, which includes time as a corrections officer and as an officer for the Longmeadow Police Department. For Westfield, Bard has served a total of 24 years, including stints as a patrol officer and as part of the community police. While in these positions, Bard said that he helped establish reading programs for students in Westfield and worked with at-risk youth, among other accomplishments.

Dickinson said that he came to the Westfield Police after eight years of military service with the US submarine force. Following his service with the military, Dickinson has served with the Westfield Police Department for 25 years, with 23 years of those being spent within the special units of community police and detective bureau. Dickinson said he has also spent over 12 years in a supervisory role within the department. Among his experiences included being the first officer to serve in the community police role offsite, serving from the office in the Powdermill Village.

The commission chose Hall for the position of lieutenant, effective May 8, and Bard to the second open lieutenant position, effective July 8.

For the two soon-to-be-vacant sergeant positions, officers John Parrish, Doug LaValley, Michael Gibbons, Juanita Mejias and William Cavanagh each interviewed for the positions.

Parrish has had eight years with the force on patrol, with an additional six and a half years with the Air National Guard, serving at the Barnes Air Reserve Base.

For Lavalley, he has served 17 total years on the force, including nine of those years in the community police unit. In addition, he has served with the marine patrol unit and also taught at Westfield State University as an adjunct professor in criminal justice.

Gibbons has served for 11 years on the force, with almost all of that time coming on patrol. Gibbons said that he spent one week within the detective bureau but came back to patrol because he felt the position fit him more.

Mejias has spent nearly 16 years with the Westfield Police Department, including almost four years on the community police force. Her efforts in community police have included promoting bicycle safety within the community.

Cavanagh had the least experience within the department among the applicants, serving for five years on the department. However, he has previously worked at the Western New England University college campus, where he also earned his juris doctorate.

The commission decided to promote Parrish to sergeant, effective May 8, and LaValley, effective July 8.