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Former Public Safety Director Horn Resigning November 1

Mendon's Public Safety Director Ernest Horn is retiring effective November 1. Horn has been a long-standing public safety officer for the community beginning as a patrol officer in 1986, eventually moving up through the ranks to Public Safety Director serving as both the police and fire Chief for the last 11 years.

Moving forward, the Board of Selectmen chose to hire a separate police and fire chief. "I respect the Selectmen's decision to go in that direction," said Horn. "But it was a model that worked very, very well. It built comradery between both departments and saved the town a lot of money."

On October 12, the Selectmen appointed Mendon Lt. David Kurczy as the new police chief. "I think Dave's an excellent choice," said Horn. "He's going to do a great job. I always believed we should promote from within," adding he hopes the same is done when the new fire chief is appointed.

Throughout his tenure, Horn worked to steer the police department in a more technologically advanced direction. "He was an integral part of bringing this department into the 21st century," said Kurczy.

Horn brought the latest advances in finger printing, photography, and criminal investigation to the detective unit. He also made sure police cruisers were outfitted with computers and tablets, and was one of the first chiefs in the area to put cameras in cruisers to increase transparency. He was also one of the key individuals in establishing an accident reconstruction unit that is utilized in Mendon for investigations into serious motor vehicle accidents. "He's one of the best investigators in the field," added Kurczy.

He also served as President of the Central Mass. Law Enforcement Council and with Milford Police Chief Tom O'Loughlin wrote the first statewide mutual aid agreement giving police officers the right to intervene in other towns when they see crimes being committed.

Selectman Rich Schofield also remembered Horn volunteering for another role. "He also served an 18-month stint as the interim town coordinator at a time when we were without both a person and funding for the position," he stated.

Horn said his biggest fear while serving as Chief was a child abduction that did not end well saying, "If that happened under my watch, it would haunt me for the rest of my life." And his biggest challenge? "Dealing with the politics; there's always people who think they know your job better than you," he said.

Horn's tenure as Chief did not go without its controversies. In March, he cleared Mendon firefighter, Michael Zarella, who was accused of unprofessional conduct alleging he was spreading rumors of a relationship between Selectman Mark Reil and Town Administrator Kim Newman. An independent investigation found Zarella in the wrong, however, Horn cleared him of all wrong doing after conducting his own internal investigation.

In 2014, Mendon Police Officer Chris Bettencourt filed charges of gender and sexual orientation discrimination against Mendon Police Officer Donald Blanchette, the Police Department, Police Chief Ernest Horn, and the Town of Mendon. Aknowledging he was gay, Bettencourt stated he had been subjected to harassment allegedly perpetuated by Blanchette and alleging Horn did not take the appropriate action to stop it.

"Managing people is difficult and people often disagree with decisions made, but that comes with the territory," said Horn. "But I will say that no decision I've made has ever been successfully overturned."

Horn said for now he plans on enjoying his retirement and putting his energies into his law practice. "It's been three decades and it's been an absolute honor serving this town. I'll always be here for the (public safety) departments, the Selectmen and the citizens."


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