Williamstown appoints Michael Ziemba as its first permanent police chief in two years

Ella Marx

Since December 2020, Michael Ziemba has served in several different roles within the Williamstown Police Department (WPD), including lieutenant, acting chief, interim chief, and — as of Dec. 20 — permanent chief. 

“In a small town like this, you have to wear many hats,” said Ziemba, who also started the WPD’s K-9 unit and has held posts such as school liaison, court officer, and fleet supervisor during his 22-year tenure with the department.

“I never took on those tasks begrudgingly — it was always nice to be able to do those things.”

After a months-long search process for a permanent police chief, Town Manager Robert Menicocci, the town’s hiring and firing authority, announced Ziemba’s appointment on Dec. 20 and lauded Ziemba’s experience, integrity, and “determination in rebuilding the public trust” in his press release.

Ziemba told the Record that it was an easy decision for him to apply for the permanent chief position, despite having assumed the responsibilities of chief during a particularly challenging time for the department. 

In August 2020, then-WPD Sergeant Scott McGowan filed a federal lawsuit that claimed then-Police Chief Kyle Johnson and other WPD officers committed acts of sexual assault and racial harassment. Upon Johnson’s December 2020 resignation following months of public criticism, former Town Manager Jason Hoch ’95 selected Ziemba to fulfill the chief’s responsibilities until the completion of a search for an interim chief.  

For Ziemba, becoming the department’s permanent chief will enable him to advance the initiatives he began as interim chief. 

During Ziemba’s time as interim chief, the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service partnered with the WPD to implement its Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships program in Williamstown. The initiative allowed Town residents to engage in discussions about the issues impacting the relationship between local police officers and the Town community and identify potential solutions to those issues.

“I knew we had to make quite a few changes and go in different directions,” Ziemba said. “And we’ve done that.”

After Ziemba served as acting chief following Johnson’s resignation, former Interim Town Manager Charlie Blanchard selected Ziemba from a pool of six applicants in May 2021 to become the WPD’s interim chief. The Select Board hired Menicocci in May to replace Blanchard, whom the Select Board employed after Hoch’s resignation in the spring of 2021. 

Despite the frequent changes within the WPD and local government’s leadership, Ziemba has maintained a steadfast commitment to the Town’s residents and department’s officers. 

“It’s kind of been a trial by fire,” he said. “It’s been a very busy last couple of years, and initially, obviously, it was tough starting out — I was in a supervisory role…But once I had the support of the department, the Town leaders, and most of the community, it made the job easier.”