BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — BEVERLY — Police Chief Mark Ray, a decorated military veteran who has led the Beverly Police Department since 2007, has decided to retire as of Sept. 13, outgoing Mayor Bill Scanlon said yesterday.
“We wish him well,” Scanlon said of Ray, a 54-year-old Beverly native, who started with the department on Sept. 16, 1985, and rose through the ranks.
“I am really looking forward to spending more time with my family,” Ray said of his impending retirement.
During a 30-year military career, Ray served combat tours in Bosnia in 1996-1997 as part of a multinational brigade and in Iraq in 2005.
He said he flew into Iraq on New Year’s Day, and as a lieutenant colonel, he served as garrison commander until November before arriving home in December. The 1976 graduate of Beverly High, who enlisted at age 18, earned a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq and a Legion of Merit badge upon his retirement from the National Guard around 2008, he said.
Ray had been looking for opportunities elsewhere before his retirement announcement. Last year, Ray became a finalist for the police chief’s job in Portland, Maine. In February, Ray was a finalist for the police chief’s job in Lone Tree, Colo., but was not chosen.
“I think he’s done a good job,” Scanlon said. “I think he’s been more accessible than previous chiefs have been. I think he’s been more reasonable with the public” and more approachable, too. “I am sorry to see him go,” Scanlon said.
Ray earns a salary of $127,000, Scanlon said.
When Ray retires, Capt. Christopher Negrotti, the patrol division commander, will serve as acting chief until a permanent replacement for Ray is appointed.
“Chris will be a candidate to be permanent chief,” said Scanlon, “but we will conduct the search and go through an assessment center process.”
Negrotti has served as the executive officer in the department, and Ray said, “he is going to do a tremendous job.” The department has 66 sworn officers and six civilian employees.
When Ray was elevated from lieutenant to chief in 2007, succeeding former Chief John Cassola, he pledged to maintain openness and build trust within the community.
“I think we have a fair police department,” said Ray, who added that the department has seen a drop in crime, partly due to a nationwide trend.
“Part of it is the work we did in the community,” Ray said.
To cultivate relationships within the city, Ray created a Community Advisory Council, in which community members meet with police regularly, helping to tackle quality-of-life issues, such as graffiti and noise abatement.
“The most important thing I think we found was we got to listen to the community,” Ray said. The department also developed relationships with the community through a liaison program so that various groups, such as senior citizens, the schools, Beverly Hospital and Beverly Airport, would deal with the same officer on various problems unique to them.
Ray said he was also proud of the department’s domestic-violence and victim-services program. The efforts of officers to help victims and prevent further incidents were recognized by the International Association of the Chiefs of Police, Ray said.
Ray said one of his biggest challenges as a police officer was serving as the lieutenant on the midnight shift.
“Many members of our community don’t see what happens after hours,” he said. Officers often showed courage in dealing with after-hours incidents.
“When someone is in trouble at 1 or 2 in the morning, everyone is happy to see the blue uniform,” Ray said.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.