A cop takes a look back

Recently, I had an anniversary of sorts. January 28, 1991, was my first day at the Manchester NH Police Dept. I had been sworn in with 18 others earlier in the month. At the time, at 35 years old, I was the oldest police recruit to have ever been hired in Manchester, at least in modern times. What followed was ten weeks at the Manchester Police Academy, then ten more at the state academy, where we lived Mon-Fri. I wasn’t the oldest guy up there still though I held my own. The cadre knew I had been an Army Drill Sergeant, so they dogged the hell out of me. I took it all good natured, and I know they appreciated that, and they had fun turning the screws on me and I cheerfully (usually) took whatever they handed out. In the end, upon graduation, they gave me the “Class Motivation Award” which still hangs on my wall. In fact, the Manchester guys took many of the class awards.

After graduating, I did a miserable three weeks duty with the Army, then worked the rest of the summer 6PM-230AM. What a wild summer it was! Shootings, a couple of murders, I learned fast. I even took a dying declaration in an ambulance which resulted in the conviction and prison time of two violent thugs.

I commuted from Weymouth (Mass) from January to July, till we finally found a house where I still reside today. My family moved to Manchester, and, unfortunately, my children were taken out of their schools, away from their friends and their childhood home. I still  sometimes feel that was a selfish decision on my part. 

I was shocked at how busy and violent Manchester was that summer, but that suited me just fine. I had a good career. We had our problems up here over the years, but I weathered them. I split my career between street patrol and investigations, loving both, never having an interest in being promoted, deciding instead to work cases and become a dedicated union man. 

I spent Six years in what was then a national model Domestic Violence Unit, specialized In investigating sexual assaults with adult victims for many years. I spent some time investigating financial crimes, and of course, worked several homicides over the years. I also had the good fortune to work with some great partners. 

My friend, Officer Michael Briggs was murdered while responding to a domestic dispute in 2006. Actually, he was trying to apprehend the suspect from that domestic call. I had the proud but heartbreaking privilege to participate in the investigation of his murder. His killer was apprehended and arrested in Boston, and this event forged a strong bond between the Boston and Manchester police departments, that still exists today. Boston PD is in many ways a class organization, and we will always be grateful to them. Perhaps we were able to repay them somewhat, when, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, our SWAT team was on the ground, in Watertown, side by side with our brothers and sisters from Massachusetts. We also had a list of MPD officers who volunteered to go down the next day to relive our SWAT team, but in the end, the bomber was apprehended while our SWAT team was searching nearby. 

A few years after Mike was murdered in the line of duty, another friend, (who I didn’t know very well at the time) Officer Dan Dougherty was shot five times while chasing an armed suspect on foot. I participated in that investigation as well. 

It was a miracle that Dan survived, persevered, and came back to the job. It is a testament to who he is as both a cop and a person. Those incidents were both high points and low points of my career simultaneously. There were many others. 

Early in my career, I sat at a crime scene where a five year old boy was murdered by his mother. She impaled him to the kitchen floor with a sword. Believe me, we see the darkest of the dark, but also, at times, the best of humanity. I think though, unfortunately, we see more dark that good. 

I assisted in the delivery of a baby girl, on one of my birthdays, no less. I’ve attended may autopsies, something I believe no one should ever have to see. I’ve notified and assisted people with the sudden deaths of their loved ones. Mostly though, I rode along on the day to day ebb and tide of life and humanity, observing so much of life and death, often a participant  in many, many human dramas. I always tried to help, but too many times I couldn’t. However, despite it all, I still feel it was a privilege to have done so.  

To my family, I thank them for their love and support. I am truly sorry for all I missed, and forcing my wife to bear the burden of raising a family with an often absent husband. I only hope that having been able to help provide a good home for my family and decent retirement helps to make up for all I wasn’t around for, and the pain in the ass I’ve been, especially to my kids.

I also had the good fortune to have served on Manchester PD with my brother, who was a great cop. Unfortunately, our paths did not cross often on the job, but we worked a few cases together, and shared some memorable experiences.

Please don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing special about my own police career. Many cops have experienced much more trauma, and paid dearly for their time wearing the badge. So, when you see a cop, or know a cop, regardless of where they work, know that they are experiencing life changing events on a day do day basis that most people could never imagine, nor should they. One thing that all cops have in common, is that when they see each other, they KNOW. And, they don’t even have to talk to each other. They just know. About life, about the job…

I came out as a wiser man, I think, perhaps very cynical about life, but any cop who says the job hasn’t damaged them or otherwise caused them problems in life, is either in denial, or not being truthful. I never changed the world, I was wise enough not to try. But I truly hope that, occasionally, I was able to do some good for someone in need of help at a low point in their life. 

In the end, I am proud to have had the privilege to have worn the badge all these years. I am proud to have been a member of this profession and serving alongside so many of my brothers and sisters. For those of you who know me, Thanks for listening. I want you to know I never forgot where I came from.

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