|Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn to Retire in July|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff|
01:00PM / Tuesday, December 06, 2022
PITTSFIELD, Mass. After nearly 30 years with the city, Chief Michael Wynn will retire his badge after the Fourth of July to refocus his priorities.
The announcement was made on Tuesday in Mayor Linda Tyer's office with his wife and infant child present.
"I had been thinking about it for a couple of years now," Wynn said. "But obviously, recent changes in my family circumstances and family life, I had some minor health concerns this summer that caused me to reflect and reprioritize, and it's time."
The chief's last day of service will be July 4 after working the city's annual parade. His retirement takes effect after July 8. He will be 53 at this time and said he has no plans yet but will be staying in the area.
The department is in the process of developing a plan for the temporary transfer of an interim commander that will be placed in early 2023 and will then work on a permanent path forward.
"I just want to say how this is for me, personally and professionally, a momentous occasion. Chief Wynn has been a friend, a mentor, a true professional in law enforcement, someone that is respected around the Commonwealth and among many, many law enforcement agencies," Tyer said.
"My time with Chief Wynn has really been, just in terms of leadership and mentorship and friendship, has been extraordinary. One of the things that I admire the most about Chief Wynn is, in addition to being an extraordinary law enforcement professional, he has this deep curiosity and has taken advantage of opportunities to participate in and be a part of things that you might not normally expect from a police officer or a chief of police."
She added that one of her best moments was last year when she received a call from Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito asking if she would recommend Wynn for the newly created Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Commission.
Of course, Tyer enthusiastically endorsed the selection, and he was appointed in April 2021.
Wynn has been with the city since 1993, first serving as Director of the Westside Neighborhood Resource Center, and has been with the department since 1995. He took command in December 2007 after former chief Anthony Riello announced his departure.
The chief said that he has witnessed many "watershed moments" but what stands out to him the most is the refocused emphasis on training, refocusing on equipment selection for officer and resident safety, and a renewed focus on the physical and mental wellness of officers.
"The implementation and the permanent establishment of the full-time training unit is probably my signature mark on the department as a trainer," he explained.
A few years ago, Wynn made the decision to have a shortcut to all of the resources available for personnel in crisis on all of the computers in the department after helping an officer and commander in that situation.
"But it's not enough to have the resources. There's still a lot of stigmas associated with dealing with mental illness and the effects of stress and post-traumatic stress and so one of the things I'm most proud of is opening up that conversation," he said.
"Giving our people permission to say, 'Look, boss, I need some help,' and not worry that we're going to put them on restricted duty or take action against them. I would rather have an officer come to me and ask for help than respond to a situation where it's too late, the officer has let it get to the point where they've said something or done something and then we can't help them."
As far as regrets go, he wishes that it did not take the city so long to implement and full taser program and that there would be some groundbreaking on a new police station by his retirement.
Wynn identified finishing the department's implementation of a body camera program as a big priority before July. He would also like to see progress in getting rid of its legacy policies.
Tyer hopes that Wynn will help usher in the expansion of the city's co-responder program, which is seeing some traction. Former co-responder Richard Collins came out of retirement to work as the department social worker and is working with the command for the evaluation process, already interviewing candidates for the position.
Gun violence is also an area of focus.
"We have great concern about the amount of gun violence in the city and beyond and, unfortunately, that gun violence is directly linked to the availability of illegal guns in and around the city so we're focusing a lot of attention on that," Wynn reported, adding that he is excited about the recent creation of an internal digital forensic evidence unit that allows the department to leverage more electronic evidence to enhance those investigations.
In 2020, he and his wife Christina Wynn decided to expand their family. They worked with the Department of Children and families to be cleared as pre-adoptive foster parents and have been adjusting as new parents to an infant son for two months.
Chistina is excited about this new chapter but also recognizes that it will be hard for Wynn to separate from his work family after so many years in the department.
"It's a little bit bittersweet. We were taking a walk over the summer and we decided together that it was really time for him to move on and retire. He's given blood sweat and tears to the city, and I see at night what that looks like to bring all of that home with you. I joke with him that he hardly ever comes home and says he has a good day. It's not as though people that work in the police department probably have the best days, and I think after almost 30 years of doing that that's probably going to continue to take its toll," she said.
"But that's his family in blue. Those are people that he has spent wonderful times and really horrific times with. That's his other family so I think that's going to be really hard for him, and I think he's really going to miss it, and I think that's probably going to take a long time to sort of like wind through,"
"As his wife, I'm a new mom, we're excited to be able to kind of have him back and now he's ours and we get to get the very best of him every day."
Wynn notified Tyer of his plans a couple of months ago and sent a video to the department last Tuesday to make the announcement. At a doctor's visit over the summer, he was notified that "some of the metrics were moving in the wrong way" and his job was contributing to it.
"It's bittersweet. I mean, I've come to peace with this decision but wasn't a decision I arrived at easily," he explained.
"I love being a cop and I love commanding our men and women in the Pittsfield Police Department and as excited as I am to turn the page and look at the next chapter, I'm not excited to be leaving this organization. They're my brothers and sisters, and I love working with them. I love being a part of that organization so there's some regret there."
When asked if he had advice for the next chief, Wynn said that flexibility is the key. He advised that the next chief should also have to have "thick skin," learn not to take everything personally, and it pays not to look at social media too much.
"The chief's job in Pittsfield is unique. I'm the chief of the smallest agency in the Commonwealth that is considered a major city, but we police a city that is considered a large town," he explained.
"And so you need to be able to run investigations and supervise commanders who are running investigations of city-type crime and still make appearances at special events and be approachable and be accessible and be out and about."
On July 9, the chief will likely be celebrating his retirement by sleeping in. He joked that a cigar may also be in order, as he has not been permitted to use tobacco products since entering the police academy.