Great Barrington police Chief Bill Walsh at a September 2019 selectboard meeting. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Longtime Great Barrington police chief to retire at end of year

Great Barrington — After 40 years on the force, the last 37 as leader, Great Barrington police Chief William R. Walsh Jr. will be turning in his badge.

At Monday’s selectboard meeting, town manager Mark Pruhenski told the board Walsh had submitted a letter to the town announcing his retirement effective Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020, Walsh’s 65th birthday. State law requires police firefighters and corrections officers in Massachusetts to retire at no later than age 65.

Great Barrington Police Chief William Walsh answers questions from the press in February 2016 after five Eagleton School employees were arraigned on charges stemming from an investigation into abuse of students. Photo: Heather Bellow

“I will be saying more about this as the day gets closer, but it has been my honor and privilege to serve this great town and the Great Barrington Police Department,” Walsh wrote. “Becoming chief was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream and goal of mine. July 1 will mark 40 years of wearing the GBPD uniform and badge.”

“I have had the pleasure of working with Chief Walsh for many years,” said Pruhenski, who became town manager last year but had served previously with Walsh as town health agent. “I just wanted to congratulate him on four decades of service to the town … and I hope that we can recognize him and his service to the town at a later date once things return to normal.”

Walsh said he was giving early notice at this time to allow “a smooth passing of the torch.”

“The GBPD officers are the best and the town is in excellent hands with them,” Walsh added. “They are a dedicated group of people, along with our administrative and civilian staff.”

Left to right: Sgt. Paul Storti, Chief William Walsh Jr., executive administrative assistant Cara Becker and Sgt. Adam Carlotto with the Great Barrington Police Department’s award from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission.

Pruhenski said he will work with Walsh over the next several weeks to discuss the recruitment process to find a successor. The post of new chief will not be a civil service position, a change that was approved at town meeting several years ago, Pruhensksi explained.

The department has 18 officers, along with a few civilian employees, including an administrative assistant and an animal control officer.

Walsh has been chief during several high-profile crimes in Great Barrington, including the mass shooting at Simon’s Rock in December 1992 and the murder of Clinton A.M.E. Church pastor Esther Dozier by her husband in 2007.

Walsh and administrative assistant Cara Becker also led the department through a process four years ago that resulted in Great Barrington having the first police department in Berkshire County to become accredited by the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission.