NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — It was with a level of pomp that the city ushered in a new police chief -- the first police chief it's hired in 32 years.
Police Chief Jason Wood stood on the stage at Brayton School on Friday afternoon and pledged that the Police Department under his leadership would be committed to community engagement and connecting victims with the services they need.
"As I take this next step in my career as chief of police in the city of North Adams, I intend on leading the North Adams Police Department to be a destination department, not a stepping stone," he said. "You're going to start to see stronger commitment and community engagement, to continue to take aggressive approach to combating the opioid epidemic, and focusing to unite victims of many kinds with services within the community."
Wood, a veteran of the force, had been selected to lead the Police Department after a nationwide search to replace Michael Cozzaglio, who served for more than a decade as police director before a change in the force's structure allowed him to retire as police chief.
The new chief and his lieutenant, Anthony Beverly, were officially sworn in on Wednesday morning but Mayor Thomas Bernard wanted a more public celebration. He had said on numerous occasions that his selection of police chief would likely be the most important decision of his tenure.
Wood was escorted into the school cafeteria by the police guard with his family, state and local officials, members of several police departments, firefighters and schoolchildren in attendance.
His children Haley, Rylan and Nolan joined Mayor Thomas Bernard on stage to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. The Rev. David Anderson of First Baptist Church, the Public Safety Department's chaplain, called Wood's family, including his wife, Kelly Wilson Wood, to the stage for a benediction.
"And the reason I'm doing this is we are not just swearing in chief Wood, today, we're swearing and his family. It's not just Chief Wood that will be making sacrifices in the coming years. It's his family that will be making the sacrifices along with him," he said.
"We pray that you would give him perseverance and endurance, we ask and pray that you would give him wisdom and guidance with all of the decisions that will be his in the coming days and weeks, months and years."
Wood was sworn in by City Clerk Deborah Pedercini and given a standing ovation. He was later presented a citation by state Sen. Adam Hinds and with two larges sheets of papers on which students and staff at Brayton had signed.
Emily added a happy face to her "Good luck!" and Conner a heart to his "Congrats on becoming an officer."
"Congratulations Chief Wood, here's to a great partnership between Public Safety and the North Adams Public Schools!" wrote Noella Carlow, 21st Century after-school coordinator, who later said the police had done a lot outreach and activities with the after-school program.
"The chief officially began his duties on Wednesday, and has been working hard and making the transition to leadership because his got a good strong foundation of leadership," said the mayor. "He's already had good conversations in the community and will continue to do so."
Retired Public Safety Commissioner John Morocco, who hired Wood, said it was important that the new chief had served in just about every capacity in the department, including dog officer.
It gave the new chief a good perspective on how the force operates that along with the knowledge of hometown should make him successful.
"He'll do good," Morocco said.
Wood said he didn't see this day in his future when he began his law enforcement in 1998," he said.
"As my career progressed I matured, personally professionally, I began to see the true meaning of law enforcement," Wood explained. "Law enforcement was not about who is making the most arrests. Law enforcement is not about writing the most tickets. It's certainly not about the illusion of being an action-packed job.
"It's about integrity. It's about honor. It's about pride and self-discipline and being a leader in the community in which we serve."
The new chief described the men and women under his command as "shining examples of what it means to be true law enforcement professionals."
"I have no reservations, knowing their dedication and support for the goals and expectations I have," he continued.
Wood also thanked his family, especially his wife, for being so supportive of him during the selection process. "I have no doubt that I challenged her sanity several times," he joked.
Bernard concluded the ceremony by telling Wood that the community was looking forward to working with him.
"You carry the hopes and the confidence of the city of North Adams on your shoulders," he said. "So hopefully the wind is at your back on those days when there is a challenge."
Wood's father, Richard Wood, who retired after many years from the city's Parks & Recreation Department, recalled how his son had been elected class president in the 8th Grade.
"I knew then he was going to do something special," he said.
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