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Lewis eases into new role as Bristol's chief

Bristolís newly appointed Police Chief, Mike Lewis, is making a smooth transition in his new role. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
December 08, 2010
BRISTOL — Bristol's newly appointed Police Chief, Mike Lewis, is certainly not an unfamiliar face to folks in Bristol.

The popular veteran Bristol officer has been on board since 2004, when he joined the force as a Patrol Sergeant, and has served both as Police Lieutenant and in two stints as Interim Chief over the course of his recent career.

Lewis has earned a reputation for being straightforward, pragmatic and low-key, a steady presence in a department that has experienced its fair share of turnover in recent years. In a recent interview at Bristol Police headquarters, he said that he assumes his new title during challenging times, with a troubled economy contributing to a definite spike in crime at all levels.

But Lewis projects a reassuring combination of optimism and realism as he digs right in to tackle a tough budget season and move the department forward in operational areas, as well.

"My goal for the 2011 budget is to provide the best possible coverage, the best possible service, at the lowest rate possible," said Lewis. "My ultimate goal as chief is to assure visitors, seasonal homeowners and permanent residents that their safety is our priority. When a uniformed officer responds to a call for service, I want them to know that they can have complete trust in their police officers. Every call for service, whether as simple as a child locked in a car or a major motor vehicle accident, is an emergency at that time for the person who is involved. "

Lewis said that he favors a community policing model, working closely with citizens to accomplish objectives and meet needs. He is working with residents to set up neighborhood crime watch programs in several locations in town. With only nine full-time officers in a town of 3,200 that might more ideally utilize as many as 12 officers, he says he recognizes that Bristol's Police Department can accomplish a lot more working closely with the citizens to get the job done.

He also says that the police department benefits tremendously from a close and cooperative relationship with Bristol Public Works, the Highway Department and the Fire Department. He shares the emergency management role in Bristol with Fire Chief Steve Yannuzzi, a partnership that Lewis says works well.

"It is a pleasure to work so closely with another public safety response partner," said Lewis. "We all work together as a team. Going back as far as the floods of 2006, we have fostered the relationship so that when an emergency of any kind arises, I can assure you that we are all on the same page and working well together."

Lewis is characteristically realistic about the prospects for improving operational capacity at the Bristol Police Department. He has made some tough cuts to line items in the proposed 2011 budget, including making changes to the dispatch service that he says will save the town as much as $54,000 per year.

However, he says that there are few prospects for making headway on tackling the major space needs issues facing the department during the current fiscal crisis. But he is adamant that the town must move forward with plans to enhance the safety and security of the Police Department in Bristol as soon as it is feasible.

"Since 1998, we have had multiple space needs studies that have indicated that the existing police department building is entirely inadequate, and which have recommended improvements to the police department as a number one priority for the town," he said.

Lewis says that he recognizes that Bristol probably cannot afford to build a new, standalone facility, but he indicated that he is personally "O.K." with an existing plan to transform the town offices into a police station with adequate space to ensure safety and security of personnel, the public and confidential information. The plan entails either a re-location of other town employees or construction of new town offices. No such plans are on the table for the upcoming Town Meeting cycle.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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