South Hadley police welcoming community input, engagement

  • Jennifer Gunderson speakes to the crowd at her swearing in as the new South Hadley police chief in January 2019. —GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/4/2021 12:38:25 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — The Police Department will hold a community forum later this month as part of its efforts to increase engagement with the community.

The department’s “Police Access and Community Engagement” team, or PACE, is inviting town residents to the question-and-answer forum on Wednesday, May 26, at 6:30 p.m. Select Board Member Christopher Geraghty will moderate the event, which will be held in “view-only” format on the app Zoom. Several members of the PACE squad, as well as Police Chief Jennifer Gundersen, will be present to answer questions the public can submit online in advance of the meeting.

“We’re hearing from people not knowing the services we provide in the community,” Gundersen said. “It’s just really to open up some community engagement.”

The department intends to hold similar forums on a regular basis, with guest moderators facilitating conversation. Residents can register for the forum on the town’s website, where they can also submit questions by Monday, May 24.

The department’s PACE team includes Sgt. Mark Baran, Sgt. Jeff Goulet, Detective Feliz Blaney-Perez, and patrol Officers Junior Swaby and Cindy Boyle, who will all be present during the forum.

Gundersen said the PACE officers function as a kind of “board of directors” for her, informing her of what is needed in the community and what residents are asking of the department.

An example of a program stemming from the team is the department’s application for a grant to pay for bicycles, uniforms and training for officers to ride their beats on bikes.

The department will roll out that initiative this summer, Gundersen said, noting that the bike patrol officers would operate primarily in the Falls section of town.

“We want to be more accessible to the community and the bikes allow for that,” she said. “It’s about being more effective, and being more effective is being more accessible.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at

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