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Ashland's first elected police chief reports for duty



CHIEF
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Ashland’s Police Chief Tony Randall was sworn in April 24 and officially took command of the department this past week, replacing Interim Chief Don Marren who has been filling in since former Chief Joseph Chivell resigned last year. Marcia Morris. (click for larger version)

CHIEF
shadow
Ashland’s Police Chief Tony Randall was sworn in April 24 and officially took command of the department this past week, replacing Interim Chief Don Marren who has been filling in since former Chief Joseph Chivell resigned last year. Marcia Morris. (click for larger version)

CHIEF
shadow
Ashland’s Police Chief Tony Randall was sworn in April 24 and officially took command of the department this past week, replacing Interim Chief Don Marren who has been filling in since former Chief Joseph Chivell resigned last year. Marcia Morris. (click for larger version)
May 06, 2009
ASHLAND—Tony Randall is equipped with an amiable disposition and a disarming smile, qualities that will no doubt come in handy as he begins his tenure as Ashland's first elected chief of police.

"During the campaign, I was honest about my knowledge of police work," said Chief Randall in an interview at Town Hall this past week. "I have no experience. I made it clear that I thought that electing a police chief is not the right thing to do. But some people in town submitted a petition for the police chief to be elected. I did not sign the petition. I decided to run for chief to show them that this is really just a popularity contest."

But now that he has been chosen by Ashland voters in a hotly contested election on March 10, he is determined to do a good job and optimistic that everything will work out for the best. " Of the three candidates that ran, none of us really had the qualifications to do the job. All of us were going to have to go to the Academy to become certified as full-time police officers at considerable cost to the taxpayers," said Randall. "But I grew up in Ashland. This is where my heart is. A lot of people in town know me and everybody likes me. They have a lot of confidence in me and I am not going to let them down now."

He is quick to point out that Ashland has a great group of officers patrolling the streets and he has high praise for their professionalism, especially the very experienced Lieutenant Don Marren. Marren was tapped to fill in as Interim Chief when former Chief Joe Chivell resigned. He has served admirably until Randall could be sworn in last week. He is staying on board as a regular Ashland officer. "Don is a wealth of information. I am going to be leaning on him heavily. At first I was afraid that the officers would all leave, but instead the entire group has been very supportive. I am really appreciative," said Chief Randall.

Randall said that he was gratified that part-time officer Jamie Lyford, who ran against him for the chief's position in March, has also been very helpful and supportive. "He's fine with it," said Randall. "If these guys are O.K. with it, then everybody else should be fine with it too."

Chief Randall was sworn in on Friday April 24, after passing a physical, psychological exam and a rigorous background check. The successful local businessman, who owns his own surveying firm in Ashland, will enter the Police Academy on August 31, finishing the intensive 14-week training the first week of December. He said that he has been working out in his basement at home every day since the election, preparing to pass the pre-entrance fitness requirements. The 47 year-old former high school athlete has been back at the training regimen, dieting, doing push-ups, sit-ups and getting ready to start a running program. "The Academy is para-military style," explains Randall, seemingly undaunted. "I'll be getting up every morning at 5:30 a.m."

Randall has a reputation as a straight shooter – a characterization that he is quick to point out applies as much to his skill with a firearm as to his outspokenness and blunt honesty. While he will have to undergo firearms training at the Academy, he points out that he has been handling guns all his life and knows about safety. Most importantly, he says he understands the inherent danger in being a police officer and the importance of the many procedures that are in place to try to ensure that a gun never has to be used. "I understand that law enforcement can be a dangerous job," said Chief Randall. "The simplest traffic stop could end your life. That's just the way it is. I take it very seriously."

He said that he is "amazed" that there is so much activity in the police department. Describing himself as a "regular Joe" who has lived on the outskirts of town minding his own business, he says he had no idea that there was much crime, especially downtown. He also said he is surprised how much paperwork there is to do for any complaint, from a stolen bicycle to a criminal trespass charge. He says he expects that his skills in public relations, honed over 25 years in running his own surveying business, will be a great asset as police chief, as will his financial management skills. "A lot of the professional qualities needed to be a good surveyor are also useful in being a police chief," said Randall. "It may not be as dangerous as law enforcement, but we have to deal with a code of administration, and rules of law. We have to do field investigation, searching for evidence to build a case, interviewing abutters and clients, dealing with planning boards and irate neighbors. I think I have the right skill set for the job. All I need to do is get the training at the Academy."

I think the townspeople believe that come budget time, if you don't have a local guy for chief, he won't care about their taxes," said Randall "I don't think that is necessarily true. I know that I will try to run the department as frugally as I can, but I will also never jeopardize the safety of the people in this town."

Chief Randall maintains his position that a police chief should be chosen by a professional panel of law enforcement experts and not chosen politically by the electorate from a field of candidates who happen to live within the town limits. He said that if no one else introduces a petition to go back to the old system for selecting a police chief, he will do it himself, but he is confident that if he has to face re-election two years from now, he will win again, because by then he is certain he will have learned the ropes and will be doing a great job for the citizens of the town he loves.

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