Longtime St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor plans to retire following a series of misconduct allegations involving his officers and a recent no-confidence vote by the officers' union.
Taylor, who is also the chief of the city fire department, will retire from both positions on December 31. The transition plan calls for division commanders to begin assuming some leadership duties in the months ahead, city manager Dominic Cloud told Seven Days on Tuesday. If the city is able to hire a new chief before the end of the year, Taylor will assume other duties until his retirement date.
"This was very much a voluntary transition on the chief's part," Cloud said. "I think in his gut, he began to see it was time to bring in new leadership."
The police department's been under a darkening cloud of controversy for some time now. The most recent incident involved Officer Zachary Pigeon, who was charged last month with aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping. He's currently on unpaid leave pending the outcome of his case.
Last year, former sergeant Jason Lawton was fired and later arrested after punching a handcuffed woman in a holding cell. Two other former officers, corporals Joel Daugreilh and Mark Schwartz, resigned amid internal investigations; both now face ongoing criminal probes for on-duty conduct. Taylor had hired each of them.
Pressure mounted several days ago, when the police officer's union sent a letter to Taylor and Cloud calling for the chief's resignation.
"Under his recent leadership, employees feel suppressed and subdued, while morale and trust within the department has plummeted," the letter obtained by Seven Days states. It was signed by the New England Police Benevolent Association Local 420.
The letter lists six reasons, including:
disregarding employee input around potential hires
poor communication around major departmental problems
perceived lack of support during times of crisis
belief that the chief "puts himself, the individual, before all else"
lack of sufficient training that limits employee growth
hasty and reactive decision making
Cloud said the officers' letter was not the driving factor in Taylor's retirement, but the city manager acknowledged their frustration.
"We're looking to rebuild the department, and part of it involves addressing the concerns expressed in that letter," he said.
At the same time, Cloud said the chief "has always done what's right by the department."