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Somerville Scene: For new police chief, a dating game

Posted by Joe Allen-Black  July 9, 2010 10:02 AM

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If Somerville was a Twinkie, what would you fill it with?

True, the July 7 public session with the four police chief candidates was a serious affair. But, with the men lined up before an enthusiastic studio (aldermanic chamber) audience about 100 strong and snazzy emcee Dorie Clark at the helm, it bore an unmistakable resemblance to . . . the Dating Game.

Danielle Dreilinger/Globe Correspondent
From left to right: Michael Cabral, acting chief of the Somerville Police Department; Alan DeNaro, police chief in Haverhill; Thomas Pasquarello, a Bangkok-based police director with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration; and, William Taylor, a captain of the Lowell Police Department. Or, you could call them the boy next door, the good listener, the world traveler and the community guy.

After four months of work, the selection committee presented Bachelors 1-4: the boy next door, the world traveler, the community guy and the good listener. That would be Michael Cabral, acting chief of the Somerville Police Department; Thomas Pasquarello, a Bangkok-based police director with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration; William Taylor, a captain of the Lowell Police Department; and Alan DeNaro, police chief in Haverhill. Who deserved to get the girl -- that is, the city?

All wore dark suits and were built like a refrigerator. Over two hours, they tried to distinguish themselves.

Cabral, the boy next door, argued that he knew Somerville front, back and center. He'd spent his entire career on the force, but he also changed with the times.

Taylor, the community guy, emphasized Lowell's similarities to Somerville and his experience in community policing: He worked under Ed Davis, who now heads the Boston Police Department. Forget separate "neighborhood officers" who get to know the city, he said: in Lowell, all the cops were part of the strategy.

On paper, Pasquarello, the world traveler, didn't look like what your mama ordered. But, he had all the qualities Somerville needed, he said. He grew up on the Cambridge/Somerville line; furthermore, in the DEA, "every office is similar in structure to the Somerville Police Department."

DeNaro, the good listener, seemed the kinder, gentler guy. You had to pay attention to the community's priorities, which often differ from the department's, he said: "We are a police service, not a police force." His soft speech hid a stick, though: He cleaned up a mess in Central Falls, Rhode Island, alderman Dennis Sullivan said afterwards.

All argued they would be good with children: firm, yet kind. The DEA runs a rocket-building/leadership program with youth while tackling gangs such as MS-13 and the Asian Boyz. DeNaro's officers go into the Boys and Girls Club. Cabral said, "We do care. We're breaking down the barriers." Taylor focused on "prevention, intervention and enforcement."

In addition, all valued seniors, were comfortable with the gay community and had solid experience with diverse communities.

Clark, cajoling, asked them about their flaws. Cabral employed the classic strategy of choosing a fault that's also a strength: since taking over as acting chief, he's had to learn how to delegate. Ditto Pasquarello, who said, "I seem to set the bar exceedingly high for my people."

DeNaro chose an offbeat trait: His Achilles' heel was "my tendency is to think like a police officer, a cop," he said, citing the adage that "if all you have is a hammer, everything ends up looking like a nail." Taylor had learned over time to set firm priorities and show strong leadership. "People like to be led," he said, a bit chillingly.

They also showed differences dealing with money -- a potential breaking point in any relationship. Pasquarello would bring in the federal resources that local police departments often leave untapped. In Lowell, Taylor said, the department worked with grant writers from local universities.

DeNaro got big bucks from federal earmarks and saved small bucks by examining the real needs for service. Cabral again was Somerville-specific: Police officers here had taken furloughs, improved their attendance and are "watching every single penny."

But, as we all learn in relationships, no one is perfect. Taylor wouldn't shut up despite Clark's hints. Was DeNaro a little wishy-washy? Cabral lacked outside experience. Pasquarello spoke of bringing in a community statistics program as if he didn't know that Somerville already does that.

Clark saved the big question for the end: Are you ready to make a commitment? The city was burned by its last chief, Anthony Holloway from Florida. They thought he was in it for the long term but after two years his ex-department wanted him back and, well, Somerville just couldn't compete. No one wanted to be dealing with bachelors yet again two years down the road.

Taylor would like to "finish my career here," he said, and sign on for at least five years. Both Pasquarello and DeNaro said they wanted the job and hadn't applied for any other police chief position.

The boy next door, however, made it 100 percent clear: He was ready to settle down. "This is my city. I want to be the police chief here. I want to be the police chief for the rest of my career," Cabral said. The personal stakes were unmistakable: I've never left you, baby . . . please don't leave me.

Afterward, judgments swirled. Maybe the world traveler would get bored in Somerville. The boy next door was doing a good job? Then, the city should put a ring on it.

Elysée Castor, a community organizer, liked bachelors Nos. 1 and 2. Pasquarello's multicultural background was a plus; however, "for the past six months Chief Cabral has done enormously good work." The other two guys seemed a little too same-old to him.

"I think they're all really qualified," said Susan Fontano,  East Somerville Main Streets board president. But, "unless there was something radically going wrong I would like to see us work from within," i.e., Cabral.

So which one will it be? Bachelor 1, 2, 3 or 4? The decision will be made by the producers -- that is, mayor Joe Curtatone will send his recommendation to the board of aldermen -- after taking the public's reaction into account. Send your vote to chiefsearch@somervillema.gov by July 14.

Tune in after the break to see who the city chose.

Now, Creamette pasta?

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