There’s a new chief in town, or will be, come August.
Colchester Police Lt. Doug Allen was named the town’s choice for its fourth chief in the police department’s 50th year, according to a news release posted July 11.
“We’re thrilled. This is everything we had hoped would happen,” outgoing CPD Chief Jennifer Morrison said. “This is really an exciting time for the department and an opportunity for an updraft.”
Allen brings with him nearly 38 years of experience in law enforcement: almost 35 years with CPD and three years in Wilmington, Vt. The lieutenant is also a 23-year resident of Colchester.
“I’ve kind of had my hands in everything over the last 35 years,” he said. “I’ve done work in the schools, [served as] patrol supervisor, commanded the patrol division, the marine division, the bicycle units, and then the last three years … the detectives and communication division.”
He said his time as lieutenant has served him well and offered opportunities for learning. As chief, Allen said his greatest challenge will be staffing the department at the appropriate level.
“It’s a difficult day and age to get good, well-trained, educated people into this profession,” he said. “It’s not a profession that everyone wants to get into or that people with the right mixture of outlook and willingness to serve are looking to get into these days.”
Allen added there is a “wonderful staff now” and that the department will make sure training is in place to move forward.
According to town manager Aaron Frank, the department is “mature” with its many long-serving officers. This helps with resolving issues in the “simplest way possible,” he added.
“We need to transfer some of those skills and knowledge to younger officers,” Frank said. He was confident Allen, with his decades of experience, will accomplish this task.
Morrison said she feels optimistic for the department going forward.
“We’re in a really good spot right now,” she said. “Morale is high, [and] recruitment is going well.”
During her five-year tenure, Morrison made a case to the selectboard to increase the authorized number of sworn officers from 29 to 30. The board approved the measure, but the town has not yet budgeted for the additional officer.
Morrison said the department will fill the soon-to-be-vacant lieutenant position, as well as a sergeant position.
In her final days as chief, she hopes to clean up her to do list and not leave anything hanging for her successor.
Looking ahead, Allen said other challenges he and the department will face are the ongoing opiate problem and unmet social needs in the community.
“Thirty-five years ago, when I began, we were pretty much an enforcement tool,” he said. “[Today,] we’re trying to meet social needs … people more and more turn to the police as the most visible aspect.”
Allen hopes to continue building the relationship of the department and the community. He believes CPD’s fraud prevention information sessions, workplace safety and check-ins with the elderly have been a great help to this effort.
“We are the protector, we are the enforcer, but we also have a huge responsibility for service to the community,” he said. “The partnerships that we have made across the community are essential. We would not be successful without those partnerships.”
In his spare time, Allen coaches soccer at Colchester Middle School. He’s done so for the past 10 years and said it’s another way to grow the connection between the police and the town.
“I certainly see the benefit of someone from the police department interacting with kids on a regular basis,” Allen said. “Not just kids, you get to interact with parents.”
Frank has permitted Allen to continue coaching the sport as he assumes the role of chief.
“I found Doug both knows and understands Colchester’s community,” Frank said, adding the position of chief is demanding, but staying connected to the community and continuing with an activity he loves will serve Allen well.
As Allen prepares to wear the chief of police hat, he expressed gratitude toward the town and his department.
“It’s a great opportunity that I have been given, I really appreciate the opportunity and that trust,” Allen said. “I’m very much looking forward to leading what I truly consider to be an excellent group of men and women in our department forward into the next part of CPD.”