Chief Harold “Pete” Bickmore of the Pittsfield Police Department is shown last year at the police station. Bickmore has confirmed he will retire Oct. 10 after five years leading the department. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

PITTSFIELD — Chief Harold “Pete” Bickmore has confirmed his intention to retire in October after five years leading the Pittsfield Police Department.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Bickmore said he was retiring to prioritize his health and spend time with his family. He was diagnosed last winter with lung cancer and took a leave of absence at the start of the year. He returned in a part-time capacity over the summer, which included his working from home.

His last day as chief is set for Oct. 10.

“I have to pay more attention to my health matters and, at the same time, I want the department to move forward,” Bickmore said, “because it’s a really good police department, and we have a lot of good candidates out there who could do a really good job and move the department forward.”

The town has begun the process of finding Bickmore’s successor, including forming a search committee, Mayor Michael Cianchette said Thursday.

Cianchette said it is difficult to estimate how long the search could take, given the current job market with many employers, including police departments, struggling to fill positions. In the meantime, Cianchette expects Sgt. Marty Cochran will serve as acting chief. Cochran was out into the acting role in January when Bickmore was on leave.


“Pittsfield needs a leader like (Bickmore) in the Police Department,” Cianchette said, “and I’m hoping that we can get somebody even close to what he was. We will be very lucky if we were able to do that,”

Bickmore said it has been a “pleasure” to work in Pittsfield and an honor to serve as police chief.

“It’s a great town, and the people are tremendous,” Bickmore said. “I’ve had a tremendous amount of support from my officers, plus my colleagues from other police departments and the townspeople.”

Cianchette described Bickmore as a calm, soothing person with an even-keeled nature. When Bickmore began as chief, he impressed Cianchette with efforts to conduct greater community outreach. Cianchette said the two have become friends over the years.

“He started off being very proactive. He knocked on doors. He went and talked to businesses, introduced himself, stopped people on the street,” Cianchette said. “When he got a chance to, he was wide open in his communications.”

Bickmore is liked and respected by many in the community, and Cianchette said he is saddened to see him leave.


“He had a lot of people that were really enthused about having him there,” Cianchette said. “They liked his demeanor and just the way he treated people. He treated people the way he wanted to be treated.”

Bickmore was hired as police chief in the fall of 2017 after the previous chief, Steve Emery, died unexpectedly.

Before coming to Pittsfield, Bickmore worked for the FBI for 26 years, serving as head of the bureau’s domestic terrorism unit, tracking anti-government militias and other groups.

Bickmore retired from the bureau in 2013 and went to work as head of security for the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. He also served briefly as the police chief in Ellsworth, before coming to Pittsfield.

Bickmore’s time in Pittsfield was not without turmoil. In 2020, the Pittsfield Police Association took a vote of no confidence in Bickmore, although the Somerset County sheriff and other officials came to Bickmore’s defense.

The department has dealt with ongoing problems with understaffing over the past two years, prompting officers’ concerns about safety. In an attempt to attract new officers, town officials have increased pay, vacation and offered a $15,000 signing bonus.

Despite those efforts, the Police Department is still looking to hire two officers, Town Manager Kathryn Ruth said at a recent meeting.

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