Municipal Spotlight Fitzgerald a Good Fit as Bellingham’s New Police Chief
Chief Ken Fitzgerald, who’s been in public safety for a quarter century, worked for nine years at Foxboro’s Police Department before taking the reins in Bellingham.
By KEN HAMWEY,
Bulletin Staff Writer
Ken Fitzgerald has been Bellingham’s Police Chief for three months, and the words he undoubtedly would like to hear about his department in the days and months ahead are “effective,’’ “modern,’’ and “well-organized.’’
The 43-year-old Fitzgerald, who’s been in public safety for a quarter century, worked for nine years at Foxboro’s Police Department before taking the reins in Bellingham. And, he credits his time in operations and administration as “invaluable’’ in preparing him to become Bellingham’s chief.
“I started as a patrolman, then moved up to detective, sergeant and then lieutenant,’’ Fitzgerald said. “During my time as a lieutenant, I was in charge of detectives and facilities, but I also dealt with the courts, evidence, purchasing, dispatch, grant writing and training. I was third in command and on many occasions I served as acting chief.’’
As Bellingham’s chief, Fitzgerald has some specific goals and he’ll be proactive in his approach to improve the climate and culture, to modernize technology and equipment, and to update policies and procedures, so the BPD can comply with police reform.
“Recruiting and retaining new officers is another objective,’’ he emphasized. “Making Bellingham a destination for new officers is important. Last year’s pay raise and leaving civil service are steps in the right direction. The pay increase makes us competitive with other departments, and leaving civil service makes hiring easier, because there’s a bigger pool available.’’
Fitzgerald indicated he’ll emphasize more modern-day policies so the department will get state accreditation. Updating equipment is also a high priority.
“Currently, the department doesn’t have stun guns (Tasers) or body cameras,’’ he said. “Getting the officers better equipped is a key. That can sometimes be a reason to leave. I want to modernize some of the tools the men and women use on a day-to-day basis.’’
A native of Holliston, Fitzgerald’s career in public safety began when, at age 18, he became a dispatcher at the Southboro Police Department. Three years later in 2002, he sponsored himself while attending the Mass. Police Academy in Boylston.
Fitzgerald’s next stop was at Lasell University in Newton, where he worked as a campus officer. As a sergeant, he was the night shift supervisor. After 2½ years at Lasell, he joined the Natick Police Department as a motorcycle officer and also worked on the traffic unit. He also was an honor guard member and vice president of the officers’ union. He moved on to Foxboro after 11 years in Natick.
A graduate of Holliston High, Fitzgerald has an associate degree in criminal justice from Mass. Bay Community College, a bachelor’s degree from Curry College, also in criminal justice, and a master’s in public administration from Anna Maria College.
When Gerry Daigle retired as chief last May, Fitzgerald was hired, and so far he likes what he’s seen of Bellingham.
“I’m a familiar face,’’ he mentioned. “About half of Bellingham’s officers know me from working on details for Patriots games and other events at Gillette Stadium. Our staff is good, the town supports its police, and both the town and its police department are very similar to where I came from.’’
The personable Fitzgerald, who enjoys traveling and outdoor activities, is acutely aware of the key attributes that both young and veteran officers should have to carry out their duties.
“Integrity and character are important, and so, too, are being able to communicate and adapt,’’ he said. “A good communicator can be effective in dealing with domestic violence situations, and being able to adapt helps when dealing with different kinds of people in a variety of situations. These are characteristics that lead to high-caliber policing.’’
Fitzgerald, who is married, listed accident reconstruction as one of his best experiences in policing. “What was positive about that aspect was being able to bring closure to people who were grieving over the loss of a loved one,’’ he offered. “My least favorite situation was dealing with crimes against women and children. Working details at Gillette Stadium was different, because I saw lots of interesting people.’’
Bellingham’s policing staff totals 35, compared to 39 at Foxboro. Fitzgerald says he’s pleased to have two administrative assistants, seven dispatchers and two lieutenants.
“We want to be an efficient department, and we’ll achieve that by updating policies and restructuring our organization where needed,’’ he emphasized. “I’m currently working on capital requests for the November Town Meeting. I’ll strive to work well with all departments to develop good relationships.’’
Fitzgerald, who was known for leadership and personnel development during his tenure at Foxboro, hopes to finish his career in public safety as Bellingham’s chief. “I’ve got at least eight or nine more years, and I hope they’re all in Bellingham,’’ he said.
When he was hired at Foxboro in 2015, he was the first transfer in 20 years. “Word of mouth recruiting is a plus, and I want both our young and older officers to let others know that the Bellingham PD is a good place to work,’’ he said. “My hope is to make Bellingham like the place I came from. I want it to be a destination.’’