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Covell steadies the course for city police~ RH October 11, 2015

Covell steadies the course for city police
By Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli
STAFF WRITER | October 11, 2015
He’s somewhat of a silent observer, as if taking in all the details of a scene. Or perhaps calculating a distance or watching the language of another’s movements.
David Covell’s training in criminal investigations is comfortably part of his demeanor.
And the even-tempered approach of Rutland City’s acting police chief has steadied the course of a department in the midst of change.
“He’s done a good job of keeping stability and moving forward,” said Larry Jensen, chairman of the Rutland City Police Commission. “You have to admire him for his discipline and leadership.”
But any mention of accomplishments during his nine-plus months as acting chief prompts Covell’s praise of those who get the job done.
“It’s not just one person that sustains this,” he said. “It’s a group of 52 officers and civilian people who have sustained all the good work and I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Covell, 52, took over the department at the end of last year after Chief James Baker left Rutland for a position with the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Washington, D.C.
“It’s always a challenge to take an acting chief position,” Covell said. “You’re never certain how long your term is going to be.”
As it turns out, his term as chief will be a little more than 10 months, though his contract runs to the end of the year. The department’s newly hired chief, Brian A. Kilcullen, currently police chief in Schenectady, N.Y., is scheduled to take the reins from Covell on Nov. 2.
“He’s obviously a talented, capable guy. He knows how to be a chief,” Covell said. “He doesn’t need me to help with that, but I will help with the transition. I’m really hoping to go back up to BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigations) and help out there.”
Covell retired from Vermont State Police in October 2013 and came to the city force in December of the same year to oversee BCI.
“When I first got here I worked with BCI personnel,” he said. “(Detective) David LaChance was promoted to sergeant and supervisor. He has been a great asset to the department. He is a dogged investigator and knows how to track down a case.”
Covell, who began his tenure with the State Police in 1990, has a long history in criminal investigations. By 1997 he was promoted to detective sergeant. He moved up the ranks to troop commander and was then promoted to chief of criminal investigations for the state. He supervised all detectives, special investigations, computer crimes, the crime scene search team, the arson unit and the polygraph unit.
During his tenure as chief, city crime has dropped, with a 48 percent decline in burglaries.
“We have seen a 7.6 percent drop in our top 50 calls for service, a 20 percent reduction in larcenies,” he said. “It indicates we are still on the right track.”
Covell credits some of this to an increase in directed patrols that originate from the department’s data mapping initiatives. The data mapping shows the crime hot spots and then police patrols are directed to those areas.
“His attention to data allowed us to continue the development started under Chief Baker,” Jensen said. “And it has allowed us to improve and fine-tune our understanding of data.”
As an outgrowth of data mapping, the department recently opened its searchable data portal for the public to see the department’s use of force data.
In a recent presentation in Killington on 21st-century policing, Baker said the portal is an excellent example of police transparency.
Still, Covell said other initiatives also play into the reduction in crime, including the work of Project VISION.
“I have seen, through my career, initiatives rise and fall. They fall because there is no investment,” he said. “Everybody here believes in the mission and the good work we are doing.”
Another important aspect of recent success is the Park, Walk and Talk initiative, Covell said. Because of this effort, more and more officers are walking through neighborhoods and getting to know the residents.
“One of the biggest things is to let the community get to know you as a person,” he said.
Covell has hired five new officers, promoted two officers to sergeant and promoted four to corporal.
“I’m really impressed with our new officers,” he said.
On the horizon are new body cameras for city police, Covell said.
“It better documents the interaction with officers,” he said. “It is a good investigative tool — it’s good in court and can create a calming effect (on the scene).”
According to Sgt. Gregory Sheldon, three Justice Department grants will help pay the $40,000 tab for cameras for all city officers.
Covell is reluctant to share personal details, but did say he has been married to Lynn Ann Covell for 26 years and they have two grown sons.
“She is a wonderful, patient woman given the demands of a career in law enforcement,” he said.
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo Rutland City’s acting police chief, David Covell, reflects on his tenure. The new chief, Brian A. Kilcullen, takes over Nov. 2.
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