Clark Confirmed as New Police Chief

Reading, MA — A standing ovation greeted newly-appointed police chief David Clark as he accepted congratulations from several town officials at a specially-called meeting of the Select Board on Wednesday night.

Standing ovation for Chief Clark

The meeting was called by the board for the purpose of soliciting public comment regarding the appointment. The listening session came after a tumultuous discussion at the February 11 Select Board meeting. After the process used for selecting a new chief was described by Town Manager Robert LeLacheur, Select Board Member John Halsey stated that he believed the process for confirming a chief had been delayed by chair Vanessa Alvarado. The town charter stipulates that the police chief is appointed by the town manager and is subject to confirmation by the board. Halsey’s statements were followed by comments by Select Board member Andrew Friedmann, that some residents found disparaging, regarding the assembled police officers who attended the meeting. Friedmann has since apologized for his remarks. 

“It’s unfortunate that we did not have this [listening] session earlier,” Alvarado commented. She also defended the February 11 discussion of the process, “My utmost concern was that my colleagues had the chance to ask questions.” and that the discussion was delayed from the February 4 agenda “To allow full participation of the board.”

Moderator Alan Foulds

Town Moderator Alan Foulds was asked to conduct the public comment portion of the meeting which asked residents to answer three questions, “What qualities would you like to see in our new police chief? What has your experience been with the Reading Police Department? What kinds of community/police initiatives would you like a new chief to pursue?” Close to 150 residents attended the meeting with 24 offering comments to the board. The overwhelming consensus was favorable both to the police department and to the candidate under consideration, current Deputy Chief David Clark. Hoped for qualities cited included, “attitude of trust and respect,” “puts the goals of the community and department ahead of personal goals,” and “raises the skill levels of his staff.” Several residents had suggestions for the department such as continuing the “RAD” program, electric police cruisers, continuing to participate with human rights work in town, and continuing the recognition program for children wearing their bicycle helmets. Many shared personal anecdotes of positive interactions with the police department, with only one resident sharing a negative story. Several residents urged the board to confirm Clark’s appointment to the post. School Committee chair Chuck Robinson applauded the process, sharing that he was one of the residents who observed the “Assessment Center” and confirmed that Clark’s performance in the assessment “stood head and shoulders above the rest.”

Alvarado thanked the residents for their comments, “Your feedback allows us to make thoughtful decisions.” Select Board member Anne Landry also thanked the residents for their participation, stating that she was committed to working with everyone to help rebuild the trust of the community. “It is my overarching opinion that Dave Clark is the police chief and leader Reading needs.” Landry declared. 

Select Board member Mark Dockser stated that he was disappointed in several aspects of the process, including the board’s lack of opportunity to interview the finalists. He also expressed disappointment that recalls are now being circulated and disappointment in himself for not getting into the process earlier. “I have learned about the support of the force for Dave Clark and of their frustration.” Dockser shared. He also indicated that after personally speaking with the deputy chief he “now has full-confidence in Dave Clark.” He continued that he hopes to learn from the experience as the town moves forward. Alvarado concluded with a statement directed to Clark, “Thank you for your leadership over the past two years. You have risen to the top.”

The Select Board then voted 5-0 to confirm the appointment of David Clark as the new police chief of Reading.

Clark is a U.S. Army veteran who during his time of service was deployed to Panama, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Cuba. He has served with the Reading Police Department since 1995 and has been Deputy Chief since 2016. Clark was Acting Chief during the leave of absence of former Police Chief Mark Segalla in late 2018 and early 2019 and again since Segalla’s resignation last July. Clark grew up in Reading and graduated from Reading Memorial High School in 1989. He has earned a Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration from Western New England University. Clark has received numerous awards in his career, including twice being named “Officer of the Year” by the Reading/North Reading Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve listened, we’re going to move forward and continue to be the best police department in Massachusetts,” Clark promised.

The Select Board adjourned at 8:50 pm.

Town Clerk Laura Gemme swore in Chief Clark on Thursday – RPD Photo
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