Mello settling into his post as police chief
Mello sees definite advantages in moving from a position in Westerly, where he was the head of a staff of nearly 90 employees, to his new role in Jamestown, where he oversees less than 20.
“Getting to know the officers individually is certainly a lot more manageable with the number of officers we have in comparison to where I came from,” he said. “That is something that I enjoy, that I get to interact with individuals on a more regular basis.”
Mello added that he likes the fact that his new post on the island is more hands-on.
“In my role in Westerly it was a lot more administrative: personnel, budgeting, those types of things. Here it’s more hands-on. I have some case involvement. I have all those other responsibilities but the time allows me to be involved in the cases more. That is very appealing to me.”
Mello has found that his management style differs significantly here in Jamestown. He says that in Westerly things were much more structured in terms of the com- mand staff, whereas things are a little more free-flowing here, allowing him to exchange ideas more freely with officers. As a result, he has much more of an opendoor policy than he did in the past.
One of the aspects of his new job that Mello likes best is meeting people. “Everybody in Jamestown that I’ve met, both inside the department and outside the department, has been very receptive, very open,” he said. “That is something that I enjoy very much. The people are warm and welcoming here in Jamestown. That makes my job a lot easier.”
As part of his outreach program, Mello has been reaching out to town organizations like the school system, the Chamber of Commerce, the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority staff, and other municipal department heads. He has also tries to spend as much time as possible walking around the village introducing himself and speaking with the townspeople. He regards that as an important part of his job, and strongly encourages his police officers to do the same.
Despite the fact that Jamestown is a small community, there is a reason why the town has a police force, and Mello is well aware of the responsibility that falls on his department.
“Police work is challenging no matter where you go,” he said. “We try to meet to the needs of the people. They have a level of expectation of service, and they have a level of expectation of their quality of life. I think the police department is one of the biggest factors in protecting the quality of life in any community.”
Mello said that in Jamestown these issues might come from “noise complaints, or nuisance neighbors, or parking complaints, or certainly traffic complaints. It is the police department’s ultimate responsibility to protect the quality of life that people are entitled to, that they have become accustomed to, and that they have the right to expect.”
Although Mello faced more serious criminal behavior in the larger town of Westerly, for him it all comes down to quality of life, no matter what the issue that is threatening that quality may be. “It’s all relative to what you expect in your community,” he said.
Mello feels that he has been well received by his new staff. He has held extensive individual meetings with each staff member to discuss their expectations, and what they consider to be their roles and responsibilities in the department. At the same time he has laid out what his expectations are.
Mello acknowledges that the individuals in the Jamestown Police Department are well educated and trained. Together with his team, he is at work on a strategic plan for the department that will set goals and objectives for what the department hopes to build upon, what they hope to improve upon, and what changes need to be implemented. The plan is currently in its final draft stage.
“There have been some minor changes, and there will be some more changes as the time comes,” Mello said. “It’s a departmentwide effort that we’re working on going forward about how we’re going to improve ourselves, as every agency can do, to better serve the community.”
Mello grew up in Westerly and attended the public schools there. He went on to the Community College of Rhode Island before getting his bachelor’s degree from Roger Williams University. He has a master’s degree in administration of criminal justice from Boston University, and continues to explore various continuing education opportunities.
The new chief’s career as a police officer began at an early age. He started in a part-time role at the Westerly Police Department when he was 18. After two years he was hired full time. His interest in police work goes back even further.
Mello cites two influences on his decision to seek a career in law enforcement. “A neighbor of mine retired as a detective,” Mello said. “At that time you always relied on him in the neighborhood as somebody to go to with concerns and problems. He always had a solution. I think that’s what caused my initial interest.”
The second influence occurred as a result of a traffic accident that Mello observed as a young child. “People were so panicked,” he said. “They didn’t know what to do until the police arrived, and they seemed to have such a calming influence on things.”
At the age of 14 Mello became involved with Westerly Ambulance, a private ambulance firm in the town. The involvement he had in serving the public in that capacity made it seem natural for him to take it to the next level and join the local police force when he turned 18. He progressed from sergeant to captain, and finally reached chief in 2004.