By G. Michael Dobbsnews@thereminder.com
SPRINGFIELD – The official retirement ceremony for Police Commissioner William Fitchet on May 29 started as solemn, but soon revealed the affection people have for the career police officer through jokes and anecdotes.
Fitchet is retiring after 41 years of service to the city. A Springfield native, he is also a Marine Corps veteran.
Mayor Domenic Sarno, who said he had a “special relationship” with Fitchet, stated, “Maybe he wasn’t a show horse, but he was a work horse. He was always about the team.”
The master of ceremonies of the event at City Hall, Anthony Cignoli, said that Fitchet had an “exemplary life of public service.” Cignoli added that initially Fitchet wanted no ceremony of any kind to mark his departure.
City Council President Michael Fenton presented him with a citation from the council recognizing his service. Gill Police Chief David Hastings, representing the Western Massachusetts Chiefs of Police
, also presented him with an award.
Noting that he leads one of the smallest police forces, Hastings said of Fitchet, “He always took time to speak with me. He’s a wealth of information.”
Police Capt. Cheryl Claprood remembered that in 1994, Fitchet was one of the officers who volunteered to coach city youth in sports.
Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe changed the tone a bit by offering some jokes about Fitchet and then presenting him with two replicas of Civil War hats, which the two men later wore.
Former Fire Commissioner Gary Cassanelli asked Fitchet to stand by him as he recounted the attributes of all of the former police chiefs and commissioners with whom he worked over his own career. To laughs, he noted that Fitchet wasn’t the best looking or smartest of the police chiefs, but then said, that Fitchet exhibited “a lifetime of dedication and leadership.”
He added, “Your steady hand is something Springfield needed.”
Sarno recalled how Fitchet pulled gags on him such as a dead-on impersonation of City Councilor Clodo Concepcion on the telephone that fooled the mayor.
“He has a dry sense of humor,” Sarno said.
The mayor said that Fitchet reacted to the challenges of urban policing with a “cool, calm and collected manner.”
When it was his turn to speak, Fitchet thanked his wife Shirley for “41 years of sacrifice.”
He kidded Sarno about the mayor’s habit of closing City Hall during bad weather and sending non-essential personnel home, by saying he didn’t think the retirement ceremony was going to happen because he had read that day was going to have a high pollen count.
He noted a pen he said the mayor had presented him for his retirement saying it was made of a “composite material, but you may call it plastic.” He said it had an inscription on in “BIC,” which stood for “Because I Care.”
Fitchet added there were too many people to thank for his police career.