WELLFLEET — Kevin LaRocco was sworn in as Wellfleet’s new police chief during the Dec. 19 select board meeting. He is taking the place of Michael Hurley, who has retired after 28 years in the police department.
“The town of Wellfleet and this department would like to thank Chief Hurley for his 28 years of dedicated service to the town and to our officers,” LaRocco said in a press release. “We plan on continuing his steadfast commitment to transparency and community policing and are grateful for the example he has set during his tenure.”
Hurley started his career in Wellfleet in 1995 and had served as chief since November 2019. He had been on medical leave since late May, according to LaRocco, who has served as acting chief since then. No one interviewed for this article would comment on Hurley’s health.
“Chief Hurley has been a good steward for the town,” Town Administrator Rich Waldo told the Independent. “He served with a lot of integrity. We were lucky to have him.”
Hurley was hired as a full-time patrol officer in 1998 after spending three summers as a special officer. He worked as a training coordinator, accident reconstructionist, and DARE officer before stepping into the job of leading the department, according to an official announcement of his retirement.
Hurley’s first year as chief was a pivotal time for policing nationwide. Within a few months of being sworn in, he oversaw his department’s response to the newly arrived Covid pandemic. “We had to put everything on hold to deal with the weekly, if not daily, response to Covid,” Hurley told the Independent in a phone interview on Dec. 7. At the time, when people fell ill and appropriate protections against the virus were little understood, police were often called as first responders.
Then, in June 2020, protests erupted over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Hurley spoke of that moment as a time for reflection and change. “In the law enforcement community, we saw a horrific tragedy transpire where police officers stood by and let it happen,” Hurley said. “It really changed our profession.”
In 2021, under Hurley’s leadership, Wellfleet became the first Cape Cod municipality to adopt body cameras. Police officers are required to record video and audio of every interaction they have with the public. Cameras are also automatically turned on when an officer pulls a Taser or gun from its holster.
Earlier this month, the Provincetown Police Dept. followed suit by adopting body-worn cameras.
Body cameras contribute to transparency and accountability with the public, as well as de-escalation on the part of officers, Hurley told the Independent at the time.
“The number one most important thing is having an open line of communication with the community,” he said. “If you don’t keep that line of communication open, the community is going to start questioning the department.”
“Hurley did a lot to bring his department to a new level, including a lot more community outreach,” said Wellfleet Fire Chief Richard Pauley. “Kevin has big shoes to fill,” he added, “but I know he will do very well. It’s going to be a very natural transition.”
LaRocco said that as chief he will prioritize “transparency, communication, and trust. I’m big on community policing — being out there in the community as a role model to the young people in town and building that trust.”
The state’s police reform law of 2020 effectively eliminated the summer reserve officer program that initially gave both Hurley and LaRocco their starts here. The program brought up to six additional officers to Wellfleet in the summers for traffic and parking control. Without it, the department is working to boost the number of full-time staff members.
The town has 15 full-time patrol officers, according to LaRocco, and he is looking to hire three more.
LaRocco joined the Wellfleet Police Dept. in 2007 as a summer officer before becoming a full-time dispatcher the following fall. He became a patrol officer a couple of years later, and was promoted to deputy chief in April 2023, just a month before becoming acting chief.
During the following summer, there was another big change in policing in Wellfleet: the National Seashore banned alcohol consumption at Cahoon Hollow beach and would count on enforcement help from the local police. The move “ended up being a very big success,” said LaRocco.
He was not expecting to become chief so soon, he said, but after serving six months as acting chief, “I’m ready.”
Wellfleet is the only community LaRocco has worked in as an officer, and he said he isn’t going anywhere. “I’m staying,” LaRocco said. “I love this town. I love this community.”
“The department is in very good hands,” said outgoing Chief Hurley.