SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — Springfield Town Manager Tom Yennerell has announced the appointment of Lt. Mark Fountain of the Springfield Police Department to the position of police chief . Fountain has served as the department’s interim chief since the town’s firing of the previous chief Douglas Johnston in February.
Fountain, a strong proponent of the community-policing model, said that he is honored by the appointment and plans to continue his focus on building positive relationships and trust within the community and department.
“With positive relationships one builds trust,” Fountain said in a phone interview yesterday. “Trust is very important to have between the police and the public, as well as among members of the department.”
Community policing is an approach to policing that focuses on building ties with and working closely with members of the community. The model’s premise is that building positive relationships and familiarity between community members and officers helps create safer situations during a crisis, and cultivates healthier communities overall.
As the interim chief, Fountain has been laying the foundation for community policing. He launched the “Coffee with a Cop” initiative, where citizens can have coffee and conversation with officers from the department at a local restaurant, and this summer Springfield participated in Vermont’s “Creemie from a Cop” program, where police hand out coupons for free ice cream to children they saw demonstrating safe or positive behavior in the community.
“Everyone in the community has a voice,” Fountain said. “We want to be listening to citizens and for citizens to know that their voice deserves to be heard.”
Fountain also wants to create an opiate prevention program in Springfield, in which the department would partner with local prevention groups to provide outreach and support to people and their families suffering from addiction.
Police-assisted opiate prevention is a fast-growing nationwide initiative, Fountain said. The promoting organization, the Police-Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI) has participation from 36 states and 500 agencies across the country.
Under the initiative, following a police reported incident pertaining to substance abuse, a department-contracted social worker partners with community prevention and recovery groups to provide needed resources to the individual or family, whether it be adequate shelter, food or access to health services.
“If you are able to help a family of someone suffering from addiction through available resources, you stand a better chance to help that family improve their lives,” Fountain said, adding that this approach, when successful, can trigger positive outcomes for the person suffering addiction as well.
Fountain’s career in law enforcement began in 1984 as a patrolman for the City of Burlington. He joined the Springfield department as an officer in 1990 and became a lieutenant in 2002. In 2005 Fountain was named Vermont Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
“This is the beginning of a new era for the Springfield Police Department as we anticipate updates to operations and practices resulting in better service to Springfield citizens,” Yennerell said in his press statement. “During the six months Chief Fountain has led the department as acting chief much has been accomplished and the foundation has been created to make more significant improvements.”
Fountain was chosen from a field of five final candidates for the position. The town advertised the position throughout the Northeast and had two different search panels interview each of the five finalists. The consensus of the interviewers was that Fountain was the best candidate.
“I look forward to working with the community and members of the department to build positive relationships with one another,” Fountain said.
There will be a swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, Aug. 21 at 6 p.m. at Springfield Town Hall, 96 Main St.