County gets new state police head; Danoski is third this year
MIDDLEBURY — Vermont State Police on Monday officially confirmed Lt. Jeff Danoski as the new leader of the agency’s New Haven barracks, which serves Addison County. Danoski, 47, becomes the third commander of the New Haven barracks in just four months.
“I’m obviously honored and excited about the opportunity to command the New Haven barracks and work with the citizens and other agencies in the county,” Danoski said during a phone interview on Wednesday. “I hold myself and the members assigned here to high standards.”
Danoski, a Pittsford resident, replaces Lt. Chuck Cacciatore, who took the New Haven barracks’ reins in late August when the previous commander, Lt. Michael Manley, was promoted to captain. Manley now oversees the VSP’s New Haven, Rutland, Shaftsbury, Royalton and Westminster barracks. Manley had led the VSP’s Addison County force since October of 2013.
In a sense, Cacciatore and Danoski are replacing each other: Cacciatore is taking Danoski’s former job as director of the VSP’s Office of Professional Development & Training in Waterbury. That office is responsible for both the recruitment and initial training of new troopers, as well as in-service training for all members.
Danoski joined the VSP in March of 1991, soon after completing his studies in criminal justice and sociology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He was first assigned to the VSP’s Rutland barracks, where he worked for 13 years before transferring to Waterbury. During his time with the Office of Professional Development & Training in Waterbury he earned promotions to sergeant and then lieutenant.
For the past 18 months, Danoski was assigned to the VSP headquarters as an assistant staff operations commander.
He officially began his new job in New Haven on Sunday, Nov. 27. Danoski leads a New Haven barracks that, when fully staffed, includes 15 uniformed personnel: 10 troopers, four sergeants and himself.
“I had an interest in assuming command of a barracks,” Danoski said of his new assignment.
He anticipates providing continuity to a VSP post that has seen a lot of turnover in Addison County.
“This is where I want to be and what I want to do,” Danoski said.
With only a few days under his belt as New Haven barracks commander, Danoski has understandably not yet established his long-term vision for law enforcement priorities in Addison County.
“I really haven’t had an opportunity yet to sit down with the troopers and the sergeants here,” Danoski said, “but I will meet with them and get our strategic plan together.”
He promised the barracks would deliver high quality services on his watch.
“I expect (the uniformed personnel) to fulfill the ideals and mission of the VSP as they serve the county and the state,” Danoski said.
Major Rick Hopkins, who recently assumed command of the VSP Field Force Division, said the leadership transition in Addison County is in line with a current trend of turnover within the state police ranks. That turnover has largely being driven by recent and impending retirements, most of them senior supervisors.
Hopkins said the VSP has seen around 15 retirements this far in 2016, with a similar number forecast for both 2017 and 2018. Most of those retirees are sergeants, lieutenants and captains, and Hopkins said there is often a domino effect in terms filling positions because of promotions when a supervisor leaves.
State police uniformed personnel must be age 50 and have contributed 20 years into the system to collect full retirement benefits. Retirement for all members is mandatory at age 55.
State police are actively recruiting new troopers, and Hopkins encouraged prospective applicants to check out the agency’s website at vermont.gov/employment.
“It’s really challenging to try to manage that and keep up this ambitious agenda that we have,” Hopkins said of the turnover and recruitment process.
State police, he said, go through a laborious vetting process for new candidates due to the public safety nature of the positions.
“You need to have great people,” he said.
The VSP makes around 30 new hires each year, according to Hopkins.
Having Cacciatore and Danoski swap assignments was an opportunity for the VSP to “get the right people in the right jobs.” Hopkins pointed to Cacciatore’s past experience with personnel management and Danoski’s desire for — and proven track record with — leadership positions.
He believes that the New Haven barracks will now enjoy a more stable run of leadership.
“We see (Danoski’s appointment) as a long-term solution for Addison County,” Hopkins said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]