Other residents, however, voiced support for MacDonald and said overturning the move could undermine the authority of the Town Manager Act.

Before the selectmen began to debate the fate of their police chief, dozens of members of the Duxbury Police Department gathered outside town hall in a show of support.

Uniformed officers mingled with police officers in plainclothes in the hour before the Board of Selectmen meeting started Monday night.

Lt. Susan James said those at the meeting to show support for the chief included Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph MacDonald, and members of the Marshfield, Whitman and Cohasset police departments.

“We’re here to support the police chief,” James said. “They came on their own, on their own time.”

She said she was “devastated” when she first heard of the town manager’s decision not to renew the contract.

Lt. Roger Banfill, who along with James and Lt. Lewis Chubb recently signed a letter of support for DeLuca, said the officers in attendance were behind DeLuca “100 percent.”

“He’s pushed this department forward ... he gives it his all,” Banfill said. “Hopefully this will convince the selectmen and the town manager to sign a new contract.”

Inside the meeting, James repeated her support for the chief, and sharply criticized MacDonald’s decision.

“I feel the decision ... is a travesty and an embarrassment,” she said, calling the decision a “personal attack” on the chief.

“Chief DeLuca is an honorable and compassionate leader of our department,” she added.

Other members of the Duxbury Police Department echoed the support.

“I feel a mistake is being made,” said Fran McTernan, who said he has worked for DeLuca for 10 years.

“The task of running a department is not an easy one.” he said. “I believe Chief DeLuca has done an admirable job.”

Sgt. Dennis Symmonds told the board: “You couldn’t ask for a better man.”

Perhaps the strongest words of support came from Bob Hayden, a former police chief in Lawrence who worked with DeLuca in Boston and was on the search committee that brought DeLuca to Duxbury.

“I was looking for honesty, integrity, courage ... those are things you look for in a police chief,” he said. “I strongly urge Duxbury to keep Mark DeLuca as your police chief.”

Bonnie Dyer, widow of Duxbury Special Police Officer Melvin Dyer, who was killed last summer while working a detail at the Marshfield Fair, said DeLuca was there for her and her family in a dark time.

“Even though there was little hope he would survive ... Chief DeLuca came to Brigham & Women’s every single day to support me and my kids,” she said. “The chief gave Mel the best any fallen officer could deserve. He truly cares about all his officers.”

Ed Perry, a Duxbury resident who owns the radio station WATD, also voiced support for DeLuca.

“I think the town of Duxbury has a pretty good deal with Mark DeLuca,” he said.

He said as a reporter, it’s his job to dig up bad things, and in Duxbury he hasn’t found much to complain about.

“This issue has the ability to completely polarize this town,” he said. “Whatever you do here, please keep the door open for negotiation.”

Others asked for the reason DeLuca’s contract wasn’t renewed.

“What is the cause? What’s the reason why?” asked Cohasset Police Chief James Hussey.

“We are asking you, as your constituents to change this,” said resident Deb Jewell. “This is wrong.”

Other residents at the meeting, however, said they supported the town manager’s right to make a decision on the chief’s contract.

Former selectman Jim Murphy said that in the business world, a non-renewal wouldn’t be considered a termination, a sentiment echoed by others at the meeting.

“In the 27 years I’ve been in this community, I’m not sure there’s been a more important decision,” he said, saying reversing MacDonald’s decision could undercut the authority of future town managers.

“It’s going to impact the ability of the town to hire a town manager,” he said.

Steve Antonellis said that if the non-renewal of a contract is to be considered a dismissal, it would basically create open-ended contracts.

“I don’t think that was the intent of the police chief and fire chief having contracts,” he said. “We need to allow him [MacDonald] to do his job.”

Bob Doyle said that the selectmen needed to respect the authority of the town manager.

“I respect Chief DeLuca, but at the same time I respect the town manager and I respect this government,” Doyle said. “He has not been fired.”

Maggie Kearney read a letter, supporting the town manager’s right to make the decision. Former selectmen Pat Dowd, John Leonard, Margaret Kearney, Andre Martecchini, James Murphy and John Tuffy signed the letter.

For his part, DeLuca had little to say after the meeting, saying he’d prefer to refrain from commenting and would let the matter play out with the selectmen.