By the end of the month, the Office of Safety and Security will have a second former high-ranking state police officer in its senior leadership. Lt. Col. William “Bill” Harwood, a 30-year veteran of the state police force, has been selected to assume the role of Assistant Director of Safety and Security. He will begin on March 28.
Executive Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols announced on February 11 that Harwood will replace former Assistant Director of Safety and Security Tim Hanson, who left the College in January for a full-time officer role at the Brunswick Police Department.
“[Harwood] is well-known as a person of great integrity and a really strong leader,” Nichols said. “Most importantly, [he] is the perfect fit for Bowdoin. He’s somebody that really fits our values and what we stand for here as an organization. He’s well-known for fairness, honesty and integrity.”
Harwood’s first interaction with the College was decades ago, while he was working as a forensic chemist in the state crime laboratory. His boss sent him to sit in on a Bowdoin chemistry class to learn the science behind a new machine used to compare the chemical composition of paints and fibers.
“I was so impressed with the beauty of the campus and the level of instruction and expertise of that particular class I attended,” Harwood said. “The entire campus—the Brunswick area, the restaurants, the whole community—is just very engaging and exciting for me.”
Harwood will maintain his permanent residence in Winthrop but said that he was looking forward to being able to establish a new sense of place on campus.
“The very first thing I’m going to try to do [at Bowdoin] is build relationships with everybody,” Harwood said.
Both Harwood and Nichols cited each other as a key reason behind Harwood ending up at the College. Nichols—who, before moving to his current post at Bowdoin, had an almost 30-year tenure at the state police department—and Harwood have known each other professionally for decades.
“I’ve known [Harwood] in one capacity or another since 1989,” Nichols said. “He’s a man I have a great deal of respect for. When I think about who I and we as a College are going to bring in as our number two person—and maybe eventually as the number one person—I take that very seriously. I’ve been here at Bowdoin for 18 years now, and when I do leave, I want it to be in good hands.”
Nichols made a point of noting that while his relationship with Harwood was a factor in the selection process, the choice of who to hire was ultimately not his.
“I don’t want to come across as this being my selection alone,” Nichols wrote in an email to the Orient. “The College[‘s] hiring process [is] intensive and inclusive.”
Harwood’s move from a high-ranking state police job to a NESCAC security post is not unique. In 2018, Colby announced that then-State Police Chief Robert Williams, who had held the position for seven years, would be taking over as its director of safety and security.
“What attracted me [to Bowdoin] is the website,” Harwood said. “You guys have a great website. It shows the level of emphasis that you guys put on safety and security … that’s something that’s impressive to me, and I want to be a part of something impressive.”
“I like what [job] candidates with law enforcement background … bring to the field,” Nichols said. “On the other hand, not all law enforcement professionals—even though they look good on paper—fit exactly into what we’re looking for at Bowdoin. I’ve known [Harwood] for a number of years. His reputation is stellar. He’s well-known for his integrity.”
Harwood is a central figure in a case filed against the state last February by Lyman-based lawyer Amy Fairfield. The plaintiff alleges that the state has been illegally withholding thousands of pages of documents relating to the operations of the state police crime laboratory, of which Harwood served as director from 2010 to 2018. The Bowdoin Orient spoke with Fairfield on background for this story.
Fairfield attests that the withheld documents would confirm her claim that the lab, which handles DNA and forensic evidence, made chronic mistakes in “evidence handling and/or testing,” per the plaintiff’s filing. Fairfield claims that the crime lab’s errors had resulted in inaccurate judgments in a number of high-profile murder cases in which she represents the defendants.
The case is still in litigation. Harwood was transparent with regards to the proceedings.
“I certainly encourage anybody to look at anything they can see and ask questions,” Harwood said. “That’s a part of the criminal justice system that’s uncomfortable at times, but that’s the beauty of it.”