Steve Locke is not a police officer but he now oversees all police operations at Hartford headquarters. But not like a typical police Chief.
"I am not going to be making tactical operational police decision. Not my job. I'm an administrative head," Locke says.
Locke, who is also the Fire Chief, is the community's new Public Service Director -- a position created by the town after an unsuccessful search for a new police chief. Day-to-day operations will be run by these two: Deputy Chief Lenny Roberts and newly-appointed Deputy Chief Brad Vail.
"I think there was a misconception that we were going to have a fire chief showing up at crime scenes," Vail says.
Locke says more than 90 percent of what he does is administrative duties. Paperwork police officers no longer have to do.
"Relieving them of that burden so they can focus on community policing, succession planning and accreditation," Locke says.
The move also frees up money to hire a new drug detective. Detectives will report to Deputy Roberts, who was Acting Chief and in the running for the permanent Chief position.
"I think it is a united front and I think it is going to work out very well," Roberts says.
It's a public service model that seems to be spreading across Vermont. Barre, St. Albans, Bennington and now Hartford all have Public Service Directors. And the directors we spoke to say it's working well, despite some initial public concern.
"I think he has the respect of both the fire department and police department personnel," says Selectboard Chair Ken Parker. "The realization that Steve is not going to be carrying a gun, or will he have a badge."
"I have to earn their trust, and I am going to work hard at that," Locke says.
As for how long the new structure will be in place, Locke says it's just temporary. He says he's focused on the priorities he's already laid out. But town officials say if the model proves successful, it could pave the way for more regional coverage throughout the Upper Valley.
The Hartford Fire Department is the only accredited fire department in New England, and Locke says the Police department will also be accredited within three years.
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