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Norwich Appoints New Police Chief

  • Norwich Police Sgt. Jennifer Frank speaks with Chief Doug Robinson at the department's offices in Norwich, Vt., on Dec. 20, 2018. Town Manager Herb Durfee has appointed Frank to be the town's next chief, replacing Robinson on April 12, 2019. (Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, January 10, 2019

Norwich — The town of Norwich has selected its next top cop.

Norwich Sgt. Jennifer Frank, a 14-year law enforcement veteran who previously taught social studies, will assume the role of police chief come April 13 when current chief Doug Robinson retires.

“One of the best parts of coming into the town of Norwich is not only the community but having the opportunity to be able to get mentored by a chief who has done so much,” Frank said on Thursday. “I’m very blessed to come into a community that is really thriving and succeeding.”

Town Manager Herb Durfee announced Frank’s appointment during a Selectboard meeting on Wednesday night.

The 43-year-old Frank has been an officer in Norwich for only about 10 months, but she has proved in a short amount of time that she is the best candidate for the job, Durfee said in a news release on Thursday.

She has raised the bar for transparency, pushed ahead with community policing and engaged with area youths, town residents and local business owners, Durfee said.

“She brings a professional and educational background and talent that is perfect for our community,” Durfee wrote in the release. “On or off duty, it’s not unusual to see the sergeant playing kickball in uniform with elementary school students, participating in ‘coffee with a cop’ day, leading the Norwich Cadet Program, carving Halloween pumpkins with the Norwich Business Council, and — as warranted — she’s pulled a car or two over for speeding.”

Frank has had the opportunity to work alongside Robinson and the town manager in anticipation of taking over the department, Durfee added.

Robinson on Thursday said he is “ecstatic” about Frank’s appointment.

“It makes my decision to retire just a little bit easier,” he said, adding that he knows the town is in good hands.

Robinson recruited Frank to Norwich as a sergeant last year after the town had trouble hiring an entry-level officer, he said. At that time, he didn’t intend to retire so soon.

“I convinced her to come on board, not with the intention of being chief, but to see if she was a good fit for Norwich and if Norwich was a good fit for her, and it didn’t take long to find out that she is a phenomenal fit,” said Robinson, whose last day in the office is slated for April 12.

Frank has a wealth of professional experience in the field of policing as well as inside the classroom.

A former social studies teacher, Frank holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree and doctorate degree in education, the latter two degrees from Plymouth State University.

She taught in both the Mascoma Valley Regional School District and in the Newfound Area School District in Bristol, N.H. It was when one of her students brought a loaded handgun into her classroom in Mascoma that she really started thinking about a change in career, she said.

She had considered becoming a part-time officer before that, an idea that was only reinforced after authorities handling the classroom matter told her she would be a good fit in law enforcement based on the way she dealt with the situation, she said.

Teaching and police work are really not all “that different of a job,” Frank said.

“Both jobs are a lot of education and a little discipline and redirection,” she said.

She started out her policing career working as an investigator for Plymouth State Police in New Hampshire, a position she held for a decade. She then transitioned to the Windsor Police Department, where she stayed for three years before taking the job in Norwich in March 2018.

In Windsor, she worked as a detective and a school resource officer. She started a cadet program there, which has followed her to Norwich. The program offers Upper Valley children between ages 13 to 18 who are interested in law enforcement, emergency services or the military the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning.

The town has about $80,000 budgeted for Frank’s salary.

Between now and April, the town will launch a search to recruit an officer to fill Frank’s sergeant position.

Frank lives in Canaan with her husband, Canaan Police Chief Sam Frank.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.