Chief of Police Is Nominated in Oak Bluffs

By JONATHAN BURKE

Erik Blake was appointed acting police chief in Oak Bluffs by a unanimous vote of the board of selectmen Tuesday night.

"Based on the recommendation of our departing chief and based on the full confidence of the board, I would make a motion to appoint Erik Blake acting chief for a time uncertain," said Richard Combra after the board came out of an executive session with departing police chief, Joe Carter. Mr. Carter leaves Monday for Boston to be chief of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) police department.

At this point a formal search process with public advertising for the permanent appointment of a police chief has not been planned. Todd Rebello, chairman of the Oak Bluffs selectmen, identified Mr. Blake as the favorite for the permanent position of Oak Bluffs police chief and said the feeling of the board was to give him a tryout period.

"It's a common practice that you find someone who's going to be an acting police chief first. From that point on we will observe and probably spend time with Erik in the coming month to determine whether he is up for the job," Mr. Rebello said.

"The sense I got from the board over the past few weeks is that we would like to make every effort to find a permanent chief within the department. If that does not work out, we will advertise and go to an outside search," he said.

The board is not unanimous on this approach, however. Roger Wey said this week that he would like to see a public search, as was done when Chief Carter was hired.

"I have no problem appointing Erik Blake as acting police chief in the town. During the summer months for a short time while [Chief Carter] was away, he was acting chief. But I feel that there should be a public process. There should be a search committee. Erik Blake should be one of the candidates. But I think it's important for the town that we put this out for public advertising," he said.

Mr. Blake said he would enter his name as an applicant in any search process for a permanent chief.

"I know that the appointment is acting chief for an undetermined amount of time right now. Obviously, we will await their decision on how they want to go about appointing a full-time chief. I'm definitely going to be throwing my hat in for the job. I feel I can do it," he said.

Mr. Blake is a native of West Tisbury and now resides in Oak Bluffs with his wife, Lynn. He has an associate degree in criminal justice from New England College and is working toward his bachelor's degree.

He joined the Oak Bluffs force in the summer of 1987 as a parking and traffic officer and was hired by Chief Peter Williamson as a permanent officer in June of 1988. At 34 years old, he has seen his career take off since Chief Carter replaced Chief Williamson in June of 1998.

Chief Carter made Mr. Blake a sergeant in July of 2000 and promoted him to lieutenant on Dec. 20. Mr. Blake has acted as the department's second in command for the past 18 months. Mr. Carter, in one of his last acts as chief, has thrown his formal support behind the hiring of Mr. Blake as his replacement.

"Whether it is our community policing, problem solving and youth service programs, strategic plan and community and business survey efforts, and Fourth of July public safety plan and execution, to name a few of our many successful initiatives, I relied on and received exceptionally dedicated and focused support from one particular individual - Lieut. Erik Blake," Chief Carter wrote in a Jan. 7 letter to the board.

"Without reservation, I present you Lieutenant Blake with the highest recommendation possible in succeeding me as chief of police of the Oak Bluffs police department," stated Chief Carter in the same letter.

Mr. Blake said this week that he looks forward to taking on the position as chief. He characterized his emotions as "nervous excitement."

"I feel like I've been properly mentored and he has included me in every aspect in what it takes to lead a department. I've been on negotiation committees. I've helped formulate the budget. I'm in charge of scheduling training," he said. "There won't be anything that I haven't seen before."

He said he believes that he has the support and trust of the rest of the department. His second in command will be Sgt. Timothy Williamson, the son of former police chief Williamson.

The Oak Bluffs police department has a full-time staff of 14 and hires an additional 15 to 20 specials during the summer months.