NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Three city police officers were advanced to the rank of sergeant and sworn in at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
Town Clerk Marilyn Gomeau gave the oath of office to Albert Zoito, Mark Bailey and Anthony Beverly before a crowd of family and friends.
"All have distinguished themselves in their service and commitment and it brings me great pleasure and great confidence to make these elevations in rank," Mayor Richard Alcombright said Tuesday. "I could not be more pleased and on behalf of the city of North Adams I thank them for their courage and their commitment."
Police Director Michael Cozzaglio said the three officers all passed their sergeant exams and they bring different talents to the department.
"They come from diverse backgrounds and I think they have some great specialties that complement our department," he said. "They each have some unique skill that they bring to the table."
Cozzaglio said Zoito has been with the department for 29 years and will become the second shift sergeant.
"He has been here a long time and is very much grounded in the community," he said. "He knows the streets well and the people well."
Cozzaglio said Bailey, who heads the detective bureau, has been with the department for 13 years.
"He has been instrumental in our war in the opioid epidemic that we are in right now," he said. "He continues to work hard with Berkshire County Drug Task Force."
Cozzaglio said Beverly has been with the city 11 years and will take on the position of midnight shift sergeant.
"He is a former member of the United States Marine Corps and he came to our department and he is a member of the Berkshire County Special Response Team," he said. "He was active today."
Alcombright said the department has seen a sea change of sorts with so many members retiring and younger members climbing the ranks.
He added he gave credit to Cozzaglio for implementing programs that encouraged officers to increase their rank.
Alcombright said the city will reimburse half of the officers' exam test fee if they fail and the entire amount if they pass to remove some of the cost burdens from the officers.
"It helps to motivate the officers knowing that there are opportunities ahead in the department," he said. "I think it is very important."
Cozzaglio added that the sergeant's test is no cakewalk.
"What we have seen both here locally and statewide is this test is very challenging and at one point there was an 85 percent failure rate statewide," he said. "So we worked closely with the Massachusetts Chief of Police Association looking into this and they have developed the assessment center program."
The director said with the assessment center program officers know within months if they passed instead of waiting a year. He said before the assessment it took four years to promote one officer to sergeant.
Cozzaglio said Zoito, Bailey and Beverly were three out of 10 officers who took the test and they scored the highest.
After pinning the new sergeants, Alcombright thanked the entire squad for the good work they do.
"We watch a lot of TV all of us and we understand the dangers surrounding these ladies and gentlemen each and every day," he said. "I think just that alone should command our respect for them and for the position that they hold. These are dedicated people who have worked and really change the face of policing in North Adams."
The only other item of note on the City Council's short agenda Tuesday was a small ordinance change proposed by Councilor Lisa Blackmer that would increase the amount of money retired nonunion employees receive for unused sick time from $20 to $45 a day that can only be accrued after 20 years of service.
"I think this is a good policy ... and I think we need to change it to be equitable," she said. "I think it encourages people to stay and hopefully it reduces turn over ... if the union employees are getting it the nonunion should, too."
Blackmer noted this would be in line with the amount the police and fire unions receive.
The council ultimately voted to pass the change to a second reading but asked that the city solicitor review the ordinance after Councilor Keith Bona brought up procedural concerns.
Bona thought in the past that changes of this kind came from the administration, not the council.
"I know we have had these before but to me anytime anything has come forward that effects the budget financially by any amount ... it comes from the administration," he said.
Blackmer noted that this request may be based on past precedent and not actual policy.
Alcombright said there was no shame in letting the solicitor look at it first and follow his recommendation.
"If you want a verbal OK I am 100 percent in agreement and I have no concerns ... it's fair and equitable, and I would do what needs to be done between now and the next meeting to make this work," he said.
Alcombright did say the sooner the change could be passed the better with a new administration and City Council being sworn in at the first of the year.
Councilor Eric Buddington said he would like to send the ordinance to general government but felt it may not be worth delaying the decision.
Councilor Wayne Wilkinson said he felt the council was overcomplicating the issue.
"I think we are all in agreement here and I think we are all making it more complicated than it has to be," he said. "I have no problem sending it to committee but that could kick it out even longer. I like the idea of just having the solicitor look at it and do whatever he says is quickest."
The only other bit of business the council had to address was adopting Pollinator Friendly community resolution. However, this vote was pushed out again to a January meeting.