• Last modified 422 days ago (March 23, 2023)


After months with no cops, Peabody hires chief

Staff writer

Peabody has hired former sheriff’s sergeant Travis Wilson as its police chief.

He will start Monday.

City council members voted 3-1 on March 13 to offer the job to Wilson. Council president Catherine Weems voted against hiring him. Councilman Richard Baker was absent from the meeting.

Peabody has been without any law enforcement officers for months. Former chief Bruce Burke retired in September after comments made by then-mayor Tom Spencer that he wanted “druggies out of the city — legally or illegally.”

After Burke submitted his intent to retire, two other officers, including Wilson’s brother, Josh, resigned, leaving one full-time officer, who later quit. Spencer resigned as mayor.

Residents of the town of about 1,000 have expressed concerns about being without police — particularly in regard to loose dogs.

Wilson, who grew up in Peabody, shared those concerns and said he applied because “I’ve seen how things were going without law enforcement.”

He said he thought drug transactions had increased while the city was without police. Sheriff’s deputies have responded to calls.

“I didn’t want to just be on the sidelines complaining about it,” he said.

Wilson, 43, will make $25 an hour not to exceed 47 hours in a work week without prior approval from the city’s personnel committee, city clerk Taylor Ensminger said.

He worked for the sheriff’s department for 15 years, two years as a Peabody police officer, and for three or four years as a part-time Peabody police officer. He left the sheriff’s office in November and started working at a Marion auto body shop.

“I was getting to the point where I was burned out,” Wilson said of working for the sheriff’s office.

Weems said she didn’t vote against Wilson.

“My vote was due to a lack of confidence in the process,” she wrote in an email. “The personnel committee did not handle the first round of applications and interviews well. “

The city’s response was “untimely,” she wrote, and the city “lost the opportunity to interview other potential candidates for the police chief, police officers as well as public works positions by failing to review applications and schedule interviews until the day before the interviews were scheduled to take place.”

“We as a council have an obligation to the citizens of Peabody to not only fill the police chief position but do so in a manner that demonstrates that we have thoroughly screened for the best possible candidate for this position and not simply taken the first and only candidate that we have interviewed,” she wrote.  The easiest solution is not always the best solution.”

She also wrote that she was concerned about changing the job from a salary position to hourly.

  “Such a drastic change should be discussed at length as a council in order to determine if such a change is appropriate and in the best interest of the city,” she wrote.

Wilson said he hoped to get the Peabody department back to a full staff by hiring two other officers.

He also is a former city council member. He served for eight years before being defeated in 2021. His wife, Jylle, is a former city clerk.

Wilson served on the city’s finance committee for most of the time he was on the council. He thinks that will be of value as police chief.

“I understand the city budget,” he said.

He also is knowledgeable about city ordinances, such as those relating to loose dogs. Sheriff’s deputies can’t enforce city ordinances.

Loose and dangerous dogs, drug activity, and the public’s perception of law enforcement are top issues for Wilson.

“I want my kids and all the kids in town to be safe,” the father of four said.

Last modified March 23, 2023