Hadley officer returning from cancer battle earns four-county police salute

Staff Sgt. Michael Romano stands for a photo outside the Hadley police station.

Staff Sgt. Michael Romano stands for a photo outside the Hadley police station. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Sgt. Michael Romano stands for a photo Thursday afternoon outside of the Hadley Police Department.

Staff Sgt. Michael Romano stands for a photo Thursday afternoon outside of the Hadley Police Department. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Sgt. Michael Romano stands for a photo Thursday afternoon outside of the Hadley Police Department.

Staff Sgt. Michael Romano stands for a photo Thursday afternoon outside of the Hadley Police Department. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Badge created in honor of Staff Sgt. Michael Romano.

Badge created in honor of Staff Sgt. Michael Romano. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Sgt. Michael Romano and Police Chief Michael Mason with the Richard G. Werenski Officer of the Year award.

Staff Sgt. Michael Romano and Police Chief Michael Mason with the Richard G. Werenski Officer of the Year award. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Above: A Fight for Mike blackboard at North Hadley Sugar Shack.

Above: A Fight for Mike blackboard at North Hadley Sugar Shack. SUBMITTED PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 01-05-2024 9:10 PM

HADLEY — A year after joining the Hadley Police Department in 2014, Staff Sgt. Michael Romano became the town’s first school resource officer, taking on a role aimed at keeping students, teachers and staff safe at the four campuses in town.

Over the past eight years, at Hopkins Academy, Hadley Elementary School, The Hartsbrook School and Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, Romano has become an important presence, handling preventive education and doing counseling, mentoring and coaching and, when necessary, being part of a crisis response team.

“It’s been one of the most rewarding specialties I have ever worked,” Romano says. “You can positively change their lives and get someone on the right track in short order.”

The continued success of the program, with two officers regularly at the schools, is a credit to Romano, said Police Chief Michael Mason.

“He built the foundation for Hadley’s SRO program, which now has multiple officers certified, and each of our schools welcomes us because of the relationships Mike forged with administrators, staff, and, most especially, the students,” Mason said.

For his work, Romano earned the Richard G. Werenski Officer of the Year award at the Western Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association’s annual luncheon in December.

Named in honor of Werenski, a member of the Holyoke police for 43 years, the award is presented annually to an officer serving in the four western counties of Massachusetts who has demonstrated the highest standards of professional conduct, along with diligence to duty, loyalty, honesty and integrity as an officer.

Romano’s recognition follows the award, now in its 26th year, being given to two other Hampshire County officers the past two years, with Amherst Police Officer William Laramee earning recognition in 2021, and Easthampton Police Sgt. Chad Alexander in 2022.

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“It means so much for our organization to have the Western Mass Chiefs Association select him for this award,” said Mason, who has been the president of the association.

For Romano, the award also comes as he recently returned to the department on light duty after he was diagnosed with leukemia in November 2022 and then spent more than a year in and out of medical treatment.

After receiving a bone marrow transplant on May 4, Romano is in full remission, considered well on the way to being cured, and has returned to the gym and is mostly feeling normal, with a hope to return to full duty by the spring.

During his time away, a special uniform patch was created, reading “Fight for Mike,” with his badge number and boxing gloves at the center of the shield, and community fundraisers were held at the North Hadley Sugar Shack and Arizona Pizza, bringing people out for pancakes and drinks, with celebrity bartenders including police officers and firefighters.

“The outpouring from the community was very moving and humbling, More support than I could have ever expected,” Romano said.

Romano also had his family by his side, including his wife, Kelley.

In law enforcement since 2004, Romano said he has found roots in town, and respects and appreciates the department’s approach.

Promoted to sergeant in 2018, he has also taken control of the department’s administrative programs. That includes handling the cruiser fleet maintenance program and facilitating one of the first fully operational body camera programs in the area.

Most recently, Romano helped the department launch its marine patrol to contribute to the Connecticut River Task Force, a unit designed to keep people safe while recreating on the river. Mason said his title as staff sergeant demonstrates that he is Hadley’s most senior sergeant, and one of the most highly respected and trusted officers in town.

Romano said it was shocking to hear his name called.

“Things like that are neat and special and humbling, and very much appreciated,” Romano said. ” I put a lot of myself into this agency, and I care a lot about my team, my coworkers and this town.”