The three finalists for the job of Braintree Police Chief were interviewed in public at Town Hall on Wednesday night. Deputy Chief Russell Jenkins was among the candidates and a summary of his answers are below.
Posing the questions were Town Solicitor Carolyn Murray, Chief of Staff Peter Morin, Director of Human Resources Karen Shanley and Wayne Sampson, executive director of the Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association and former Shrewsbury Police Chief.
Why do you want to be the Chief of Police in Braintree?
From the start of his career, Jenkins said he has always worked to put himself in a position to be police chief. He has commanded a regional SWAT team and helped lead the department itself for many years.
"Bottom line is, I am an administrator in my current role and I'd like to go to the top," he said.
Name an achievement from your career and how you accomplished it.
In 1996, there were fierce labor disputes at the Kmart construction site in Braintree, Jenkins said. He proposed to then Chief Paul Frazier to create a crowd control contingent and was given the OK to select 20 officers. He found funding for gas masks and other equipment, trained the officers and deployed them.
"We dealt with those riots very successfully," he said.
Eventually, that group, with Jenkins' leadership and the help of others, grew into a SWAT task force that includes 43 towns, five counties and two sheriff's office, Jenkins said.
What program or practice would you implement to improve relationships with the community?
Jenkins said that as Deputy Chief he has worked to reach residents better via new technologies, but that as chief he would strive to improve the department's website and social media presence. "The future's here... we just need to catch up," he said.
He also pointed to gang activity in Braintree as a problem that requires more attention and special patrols.
What professional challenge have you faced and how did you overcome it?
"Believe it or not, I'm not a very good public speaker," Jenkins said. He has worked on that, especially his nerves in front of crowds. "I do the best I can to overcome it."
As a new leader of the department, how would you build consensus with your employees?
Jenkins said he currently has a good relationship with the officers in his department and the police union.
What is an innovative community program you have implemented?
To deal with underage drinkers, Jenkins said he created a plan for officers on how to approach those younger than 18 who are caught consuming alcohol. The officers must record the experience in a database so that after a second offense the juvenille can be processed through court. Officers must also contact parents to help take care of the problem.
The idea, he said, is to "show some compassion" but also hold youths responsible.
What would be your top three priorities?
Number one would be bringing the K9 program back, Jenkins said. He would also work to address the "manpower issue" – the department is down about 10 officers, he said, and also identify those areas of communication such as social media that he can improve.
What would be your plan for the first three months?
A strong priority would be two promote two deputy chiefs, Jenkins said, and also train new officers. Next would be to "immerse myself in budget issues" in time for the spring budget period, he said.
"No one will work harder or with more passion at this job," Jenkins said in conclusion. "If you like the past eight years, promote me, if not promote someone else. I won't mind."
The questions and answers in this article are meant to accurately reflect each interview session but are not verbatim transcripts.