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June 24, 2014

Who will be Salem's next police chief?

SALEM — Capt. Tom Griffin just got hired by Peabody. Capt. Brian Gilligan is under investigation. And Chief Paul Tucker might just be Salem’s next state representative.

What’s a police department to do?

Less than five months before an election that could see Tucker replace Rep. John Keenan — his only competition is a Salem State student — many in the department and city are wondering the same thing: Who will be the next police chief?

It isn’t the first time the question has cropped up this year. In March, Mayor Kim Driscoll lost a contentious attempt to remove the police and fire chiefs from civil service. That move would have opened the positions to outside candidates, something she said would give a greater pool of talent to choose from.

Although Driscoll says now that she’s “still very much in support of opening the process,” it remains to be seen whether she’ll launch another effort in that direction.

“I am hopeful that we can consider revisiting that idea, especially given some of the new information we have now,” Driscoll said, adding that she was referring to Griffin’s departure. “I have to have a conversation with the city councilors.”

Driscoll pointed to Peabody’s hiring of Griffin as an example of how taking the position out from under civil service could benefit a community.

Tucker declined to comment on whether he still supports taking the department out of civil service; he previously sided with Driscoll.

As it is now, the department being under civil service means that the next chief must be an internal candidate who has passed the chief’s exam. Civil service requires at least four candidates take the exam; it’s then up to the mayor to choose from the top three scorers, Tucker said.

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