DERRY — With so much in the national spotlight about how police operate and handle situations, the local leader of the Derry force spoke out about his department, how hiring is done and what it means to be a police officer in Derry.
At a Town Council meeting June16, police Chief Edward Garone gave a look into how his department works, from the hiring process and background checks, to polygraphs and beyond once the badge is presented.
The chief called the process exhaustive for finding the best candidates to join the force. Garone called the background research "arduous," but added it's very important.
For Garone, it's been decades of service.
The Vermont native began his career as a police officer in Lebanon in 1964, working his way through the ranks to eventually become captain.
His police career eventually led him to Derry, where he took the top job as chief as a 29-year-old, ready to become a part of his new community with wife, Blanche, and two young children, Vicky and Michael.
In the May 11, 1972 issue of the Derry News, Garone was featured on the front page after being named Derry's new police chief. He started the job June 1 of that year, with the local newspaper calling the chief "an experienced officer with a lot of skill."
Those early years had challenges, Garone said in an interview.
"It wasn't easy in the early 1970s," he said, noting challenges like street drug use, problems in local parks, and varying levels of crime facing his department.
Now, 48 years later, there are new challenges facing police departments across the nation. But Garone said his roster is well trained and committed to the community it serves.
Councilors tossed out questions to the chief, from how polygraphs are administered to what is done if a matter comes up requiring disciplinary action.
Councilor Brian Chirichiello asked Garone if potential new hires are asked about their political or social views. The chief answered that any hints of a possible problem would be uncovered through the background checks.
Garone also noted that it can't be a "one-size-fits-all" solution for all police departments across the country, as departments are unique based on their locations, communities, and other logistics including how far it is to the nearest emergency hospital or center, etc.
"And with the number of personnel a department has, two people in a car is a very expensive prospect," Garone said. "You would be doubling the size of the department here in Derry."
But the chief added there are certainly some things that should be universal across the nation as per police departments, relative to the rights and dignity of the people served.
"That has no bearing on size or demographics of any kind," Garone said. "But certain locales would have constraints that are different."
With so much of the spotlight being on police departments in past weeks, Garone assured town officials he is proud of his force and they are all trained well.
"It's the same training for all law enforcement within the state," he said, adding the state has a consistency across communities for the training and police methods offered as part of the police academy guidelines, traditionally a 14-week process for new hires. With the current coronavirus challenges, some work is done through remote/distance learning.
Garone added a most important part of the job is knowing there is support, from family, friends and from the community served.
He credited his department for its community interaction, from blood drives, to staffing school resource officers, to offering support to residents needing help in many ways.
That interaction numbers upwards of 28,000 to 30,000 connections a year, with the vast majority being a positive connection.
Garone also thanked Town Council for continued support, especially when times are challenging.
"I think the Derry Police Department has received more support from this community over the past several months than we have received in a very, very long time," the chief said. "It speaks well to the officers out there serving the public, that they have their respect and confidence. The men and women of the Derry Police Department, it's a great group I'm very proud of for many years."