NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — The New Bedford Police Department is reeling Monday over the unexpected loss of its leader.
Chief David Provencher died of respiratory failure Sunday night at St. Luke’s Hospital, according to Mayor Jon Mitchell.
Provencher, 59, was a 35-year veteran of the department and spent the last five years as chief.
Mayor Mitchell said Provencher was a great man, a faithful public servant and an open-minded person who always looked at both sides of a story.
“The city last night lost an outstanding police chief, a terrific individual,” he said. “I want to extend my prayers to Dave’s family. We will do everything in our power to support them, as we did last night in the emergency room and going forward today as arrangments are made.”
A city councilman said Provencher was battling cancer, but by all accounts, his death came as a surprise. Mitchell said he was diagnosed with throat cancer 20 years ago and needed several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation.
He was out and about, attending city events just this weekend.
According to Mitchell, Provencher leaves behind the legacy of a more modern and effective police force.
“New Bedford in the last year has had a dramatic drop in violent crime, whereas many cities across the country are seeing a sharp uptick, especially among violence,” he said. “We’re seeing quite the opposite here, and that, I believe, it is a tribute to his approach to his policing.”
The mayor said during Provencher’s years with the force, he reformed internal affairs, which boosted morale – and he promoted programs that reached out to troubled youth.
“He took the hand he was dealt with grace and with toughness and set a tremendous example not only for officers on the force but for everyone in the community. And he did it with keeping a great sense of humor,” said Mitchell.
According to officials, Provencher’s illness did not keep him from doing the job he loved.
“Every issue was important to Chief Provencher. He is going to be incredibly missed in the city of New Bedford,” said councilman Kerry Winterson (I-Ward 5). “New Bedford is extremely saddened right now. This is an extreme loss. I’m sure the interim deputy commissioner, David Lizotte, will fill in those shoes as best he can, but I tell you, they’re going to be incredible shoes to fill in.”
City officials said an acting chief will be named after funeral arrangements have been made.