BLACKSTONE — The Town of Blackstone has a new police chief.
Lt. Gregory Gilmore, who has been serving as interim chief since April, was appointed by the selectmen as the town’s permanent chief on a recommendation by Town Administrator Daniel M. Keyes.
Surrounded by several uniformed members of the Blackstone Police Department as well as his family, Gilmore was officially sworn in by Uxbridge District Court Judge Gerald A. Lemire.
“I thank you for your service for the last 17 years, particularly over the last five months, and keeping the department strong and unified through difficult times,” Selectmen Chairman Daniel Keefe told Gilmore at the swearing in-ceremony.
Gilmore succeeds former Police Chief Ross A. Atstupenas, who abruptly retired July 1, ending a 40-year career with the Blackstone Police Department that culminated with a major clash with Keyes earlier this year and low staff morale in the Police Department.
Gilmore thanked Keyes and the selectmen “for giving me this opportunity and placing your faith in me to lead the great men and women of this great department,” he said.
Gilmore, a Blackstone resident, joined the department as a patrolman in 2002 and rose through the ranks of detective and then lieutenant.
“Not many police officers start their career with the intention of becoming chief of police,” he said. “I was one of those that had no such intention. But what I did strive for what to be the best police officer I could be and put myself in a good position so that if an opportunity arose for advancement I might have a chance.”
Gilmore gave special thanks to his wife, Nancy, and his three children, Shane, Carter and Noel.
“They understand the sacrifice that must be made for this job and I know I’ll have their support going forward,” he said.
“I also want to thank the men and women of the Blackstone Police Department who have supported me over the years with their hard work and dedication,” the chief said. “In this difficult profession, I hope to bring the citizens of Blackstone the best police services in the Blackstone Valley. I look forward to serving with excellence, integrity and honor.”
Atstupenas, who had been on paid administrative leave since April, agreed to retire as part of a separation agreement with the town. Keyes and the selectmen were prepared to hold a disciplinary hearing for the former chief on July 2, which Atstupenas requested be held in open session, but the hearing was abruptly canceled the night before after Atstupenas and the town reached a severance agreement that allowed the chief, 62, to step down and retire. That agreement was hashed out in executive session during a special Board of Selectmen meeting at the Municipal Center.
Taking over the department was Gilmore, who was appointed acting police chief on April 16 after Keyes announced he was placing Atstupenas on paid administrative leave pending what he said was an investigation of the Police Department. The vote to place Atstupenas on leave was taken two weeks after the selectmen unanimously voted at a meeting on April 2 to conduct the investigation of the department. The investigation was conducted by a retired Massachusetts state trooper.
Atstupenas, who was appointed to the chief’s position in 2000 succeeding longtime former Police Chief Lucien Lizotte, has also declined to speak publicly about the matter.
Keyes’ disciplinary action against Atstupenas – the town’s police chief for the past 17 years – came after he found out that Atstupenas was conducting his own independent internal investigation of the department and specific officers without authorization from the town administrator or the selectmen.
When Keyes confronted Atstupenas about that unauthorized investigation, the chief reportedly became insubordinate, which prompted Keyes to place him on administrative leave, a move that was supported by the selectmen on April 16.
That action riled some town residents, who rallied behind the chief, and erected blue signs saying “We Support Our Police Chief” on lawns and fences throughout town.
A source close to the matter said the investigation is based on several complaints and a series of longstanding problems between the chief and the rank and file officers. On July 25, 2018, the Blackstone Police Union passed a vote of no confidence in Atstupenas’ leadership.
The results of that investigation were turned over to Keyes and the selectmen in the days leading up to Atstupenas’ scheduled disciplinary hearing.
Neither Keyes nor the town’s labor attorney, Stephen C. Pfaff, are publicly commenting on the terms of the separation agreement.
Pfaff did say this week that the redacted investigation report has been submitted to Keefe this week and that it will be made public.
Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7