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Dighton residents show up in support of Interim Police Chief Nichols



Over 150 residents packed the auditorium of the Dighton Middle School last night to show their support for Interim Police Chief George Nichols.

The scheduled meeting of the Dighton Board of Selectman amended their meeting agenda for Wednesday night’s meeting earlier in the week after residents and members of the Dighton Police Union shared their concerns over the process used to hire a new police chief. Nichols had been serving as chief for the past 8 months after former chief Shawn Cronin was charged with participating in an insider trading scheme and terminated from his job last year.

After a three person committee was formed to navigate through the hiring process, they partnered with an outside assessment firm who narrowed down the internal and external candidates down to one candidate, Timothy Souza of Acushnet who is a sergeant for the Fairhaven Police Department. Nichols, who some say was promised the job by town officials, was eliminated as a contender and not offered an interview by the Board of Selectman.

Due to the public backlash, the meeting agenda was amended to remove the scheduled public interview with Souza and instead, added an agenda item to discuss the hiring process itself. Most of the discussion, however, belonged to the residents, who dominated the meeting.

Residents raise their hands to show support for Interim Police Chief George Nichols.

Dozens of residents spoke at public input, all of them in support of Nichols. One resident addressed the apparent concern of the board that Nichols does not have a degree. She shared that for all the tax dollars the community has invested in schools like Bristol Plymouth and Bristol Aggie, that a college education does not equate to professional success. A Dighton Police Officer also spoke and shared that while he does have a degree, it was not relevant to his job on the department at all.

The board, who did not answer any questions from residents and limited public input to two minutes each, was silent when residents spoke about Dighton being a small town and how hiring from outside the department would have an effect on morale. Many residents spoke about the “Small Town, Big Heart” motto that the community has embraced.

A Dighton resident turned the podium around to face residents as he spoke in support of George Nichols.

At one point in the meeting, 11 police officers, all wearing t-shrits that said “Support DPD” on the back, walked up to the microphone and identified themselves and their roles in the department, followed by “I support George Nichols.”

Members of the Dighton Police Department line up to speak in support of Interim Police Chief George Nichols.

In the most poignant moment of the evening, the wife of George Nichols stood to speak about her husband and members of the Dighton Police Department got up from their seats around the room and stood behind her, some with their hands on her shoulders. Mrs. Nichols spoke passionately about her husband deserving to be hired as the next chief and told the board to “open your eyes.”

As Mrs. Nichols returned to her seat, the crowd gave her a standing ovation and Nichols broke down in tears.

After public input, Dighton Board of Selectman Chairman Caron stated that it was obvious they underestimated the “talent of Nichols” and the people of the town. Selectman Lenoard Hull made two separate motions during the meeting, both in an attempt to add an agenda item to the next meeting to directly appoint Nichols as the new chief and move past the hindered hiring process. Both motions required a second from another member of the three member board and neither Chairman Caron nor Selectman Nicole Mello made the notion.

Speaking with Hull after the meeting, he said he was “troubled” that the motions were not moved. He shared he was frustrated with the process of the hiring of the new chief.

Caron shared that the process to hire the new chief will be reviewed. Reporter asked Mrs. Nichols if her husband would accept the job as chief if the Board offers him the position.

“Absolutely. He’s going to lead that department like no chief ever has. No doubt about it.”

Primary correspondent for the Greater Fall River area, Jess focuses on human interest stories and investigations into political corruption. She is a former fill-in host and digital contributor at The Howie Carr Show, former host of The Jessica Machado Show and SouthCoast Tonight on WBSM in New Bedford, former blogger at The Herald News and a former fill-in host at WSAR in Fall River.

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