HALIFAX – The embodiment of a true American dream story, Joao A. Chaves, an 11-year New Bedford police lieutenant with 31 years of policing experience in that city, was chosen by Selectmen unanimously from a pool of four highly qualified applicants to be Halifax’s next police chief, to replace retiring Chief Ted Broderick. He is expected to begin Nov. 13. As of press time, he has accepted the position, and the Town and he are negotiating his final contract details.
Born in Portugal, Chaves emigrated to France with his family as a child, where he attended elementary school. From there, his family again emigrated, this time to New Bedford, Mass. Chaves’s resumé indicates he’s bilingual (English/Portuguese) with a working knowledge of Spanish. At his public interview, last week, he indicated that his French was rusty.
Along with his considerable language skills, and fascinating personal story, Chaves has a lengthy educational background. He holds a master’s degree in law enforcement and administration as well as a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, both from Western New England University in Springfield.
In addition to these credentials, he has many professional-development training courses and certificates in everything from SWAT to hostage negotiation to hate crimes investigation.
Chaves said in his resumé he “has a passion for protecting the community in which [he] serve[s].”
In New Bedford, where he joined the force in 1987 as a police officer and worked his way up to lieutenant, he has been involved in the professional standards unit, the central records bureau, the community policing unit, the gang and traffic unit, the detective bureau, the tactical patrol force and the special reaction team.
Chaves described his management style as “open” and “progressive.” Although his experience with grant writing is limited, he has written grants, something the board values.
He spoke of firsthand experience with the opioid epidemic and also about how he has dealt with fellow officers who have addiction issues, as their supervisor. His approach has been to remove the problem employee from any danger to the public and work with him to get him help.
Selectmen Chairman Kim Roy asked him about his best quality and what he’d like to work on. Chaves replied that he is a good listener and that he genuinely cares, but that he’d like to work on his public speaking.
As a former public information officer, he is accustomed to speaking with the media, and was the only candidate who introduced himself to this Express reporter.
Selectman Tom Millias, who picked up a question often asked in interviews by Plympton Selectman Mark Russo, asked, “What frustrates you?”
Chaves said, “I love this job, still. But, the hoops we have to go through…the red tape…to get things accomplished [is frustrating.]”
As for legalized marijuana, Chaves seemed frustrated with the current laws (as did the board). “They’re making it difficult for us to do our job,” he said.
He ended by noting that his experience sets him apart from the other candidates.
No internal candidates applied for the position, which required at least a bachelor’s degree and five year’s experience. A contractor narrowed down all applicants, through a rigorous interview, practical exam/simulation and a background-checking process for the final candidates.
Selectmen asked all four finalists– the others were Wayland Police Detective Jamie T. Berger, Wrentham Police Sergeant Barry McGrath and MBTA Police Lieutenant David F. Albanese– roughly the same 17 questions, in order to be fair, according to Town Administrator Charlie Seelig.
One candidate, a fifth finalist, Lakeville Police Lieutenant Sean Joyce withdrew his application.
The running themes of the Selectmen’s questions indicated that the board was interested in community policing, the opioid epidemic as well as alcohol and marijuana issues, and speeding on Halifax streets. The board asked how the next chief would fit in with the department, how he would keep the department well trained and what his vision for the Halifax Police Department was, which they repeatedly noted was working well.
While all the police chief candidates were extremely qualified, and according to Seelig, could all have been chosen as chief, their personalities were quite different, and it all came down to the right “fit,” as Millias said.
The first candidate, Berger, had much experience in community policing, and many ideas to bring community policing programs he was using in Wayland as a detective sergeant to Halifax. “I’m going to be a leader by example,” he said.
But, he had never personally written a grant. This appeared to trouble the board.
Wrentham Police Sergeant McGrath spoke easily during his public interview. “I’m a small-town police officer,” he said. “I love the community. I’d love to be chief.” He identified the three keys to being a police chief as leadership, trust and transparency.
The final candidate was the most loquacious of the four. MBTA Lieutenant Albanese, a retired colonel with the Army National Guard had an impressive resumé, but simply did not answer the questions he was being asked.
He largely directed his own interview, giving Selectmen little time to interject. “This is the pinnacle of my chosen profession,” he said, when asked why he wanted the position.
On paper, though, he had the most wide-ranging resumé.
The board ultimately selected Chaves Tuesday at their regularly scheduled meeting and they were visibly excited about the unanimous selection, which seemed to surprise them all.
A source confirmed that several Halifax police officers, some of whom had keenly attended the interviews, had expressed excitement with the choice. Roy said, “I’m thrilled we have selected Lieutenant Chaves as our next police chief and look forward to negotiating with him on behalf of the board.”