SPENCER – When he was sworn in as the town’s new police chief in December, Michael Befford said he had no plans to make big, sweeping changes.
Befford came to town from North Brookfield beside his mentor, former Chief David B. Darrin, in 1998.
“Those were rebuilding years,” Befford recalled. In 1997, amidst much controversy, 30 officers were temporarily suspended from duty and state police were called in to patrol the town.
As Darrin rebuilt the department, Befford was at his side as a sergeant, helping, watching and learning.
When Darrin announced his retirement last year, Befford knew he was ready to take the reins and lead the department.
“I had gotten my feet wet,” he said. “I worked on the budget, helped bring programs and training and I have seen how the chief earned the trust and respect of the community so I want to continue that.”
In the first six months of Befford’s tenure, Norman Hodgerney was named lieutenant, replacing Befford who was the first in the department’s recent history to hold the position. Hodgerney joined the department shortly after Darrin took over, rising through the ranks and working closely with Befford.
Hodgerney’s promotion meant a sergeant’s position was available and Valerie Morin earned that spot. She is believed to be the first female sergeant in department history.
Befford said he was pleased to be selected to replace Darrin. He grew up in North Brookfield and resides there today. He and his wife, Jackie, raised two daughters, now adults.
Befford holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the former Westfield State College and earned a master’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Anna Maria College.
Among his goals for the department is a plan to cross-train investigators so that incidents like scams can be checked out without adding to the workload of the department’s lone detective.
Befford also wants to maintain the child car seat installation program which he’s run for years. He will work to maintain the relationship between his department and the senior citizens in town as well as retain a school resource officer which he considers a valuable bridge between his department and the school system. He said he has no plans to bring back the department’s K9 program after the loss of Police Dog Curtis which joined the department in 2021.
Befford worked with Darrin through many difficult incidents worldwide and saw the changes brought about after the 9/11 terrorist attacks which claimed the life of a Spencer resident. Columbine and the killing of George Floyd brought changes in how law enforcement responds to incidents, and Befford said he recognizes the need for change.
Locally, Befford helped oversee the handling of a drinking water emergency in Spencer in 2007 as officials scrambled to notify residents that their drinking water had been tainted with lye.
Although it is a small community, Spencer has dealt with serious criminal cases including murders, rapes, and incidents in which officers have shot suspects.
Befford said he learned from Darrin that transparency without compromising an investigation is the best method for dealing with such situations.
A few weeks ago, he faced his first large, local incident when the First Congregational Church was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.
As he worked closely with police and firefighters from other communities to close Route 9 and maintain a safe environment for the hundreds who gathered and watched, Befford noted that he, “has an excellent team.”