Police Chief Bob Szala announces his retirement

By Mera McKenna and Douglas McCulloch | Dec 19, 2017
Photo by: Angie Hilsman Dartmouth Police Chief Robert Szala at his desk shortly after officially taking over as chief in July 2016.

After serving for 34 years in his hometown police department, and just under two years as the town's top cop, Dartmouth Police Chief Bob Szala announced his retirement from the department at the December 18 Select Board meeting.

Szala has served as police chief since 2015. He suffered a heart attack in April of this year, and took several months off to recover before ultimately deciding to retire.

In a letter, Szala outlined his "wake-up call” that came during the months of care he received from his doctors, nurses, and physical therapists.

"This has been a wake-up call for me, and I encourage everyone to be proactive about their health," Szala wrote in his letter. "Never attribute things to 'just old age.'"

In his letter, he also referenced his work securing the Dartmouth Police Department's voluntary state accreditation in 2010, and his primary goal upon becoming chief of securing the department a new police headquarters.

The project was approved at the June Town Meeting, and a committee is currently working to finalize the project before sending construction bids out.

"I am extremely proud of the transparent, diligent, and thoughtful process that made that dream a reality," Szala said in his letter.

Members of the Select Board praised Szala’s dedication to the Dartmouth Police and credited him with turning the department around during a difficult time “without missing a beat.”

The Board unanimously praised Szala for leading the charge for the new police facility and for earning the respect of both the police department and the community.

Acting Chief Brian Levesque will continue in the role until a permanent replacement is made.

"We're sad to see a long-serving member of the department retire." said Dartmouth Police Det. Kyle Costa, the department's public information officer, adding that the moment is "bittersweet" as Szala will now be able to enjoy retirement.

Acting Chief Brian Levesque will continue in the role until a permanent replacement is made.

The Select Board will kick off the search for Szala's successor at its next meeting in January 2018. Although Select Board member Stanley Mickelson mused, “I don’t think we're going to have to go far.”

Despite retiring, Szala told Dartmouth Week has no intent to leave Dartmouth behind.

"I'm not going anywhere; I'm going to retire right here in town," Szala said via phone.

He did, however, note he does feel some regret he won't be wearing a badge for the opening of the new police station.

"I am a little disappointed I won't be there in title," Szala said via phone. He didn't rule out the possibility of staying involved in the planning and construction process should those working on it need extra help and expertise, however.

Szala noted his job as chief was demanding, as he made it his mission to make himself available and in the community.

"When they say it's a 24/7 job, it literally is," Szala said via phone.

With Szala's departure, the department will undergo its third change in leadership in recent years.

In 2010, the department swore in Timothy Lee as the department's newest chief. He went on medical leave in March 2015 for job-related stress, but held the title of chief during that time until his contract ended in June 2016.

Szala, who had been serving as acting chief in that time period, was officially appointed to the title in July 2016.

In a lawsuit against the town, Lee alleged in his lawsuit that his job-related stress was caused by accusations of child abuse made by former officer Frank Condez, who had previously accused Lee of stealing his department-issued firearm following an investigation into allegations that Condez had installed pirated software onto department computers, according to the lawsuit.

Investigations by the state Department of Children and Families found the allegations unfounded, and the Civil Service Commission, in reviewing Condez's termination from the department, found it justified due to the "wholly false" accusation of child abuse against Lee.

The lawsuit was settled in mediation in 2016.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.