Newly appointed Police Chief Paul Gallagher in North Andover sat down with Valley Patriot publisher Tom Duggan to talk about his new job, his background and where he hopes to take the men and women in blue who protect and serve North Andover, Massachusetts.
Duggan: How long have you been a police officer?
Gallagher: Since 1975. I was a Baltimore Police Officer then. I graduated Northeastern University in the Criminal Justice Program, the graduates were recruited by the Baltimore Police to become Police Agents, which is a college degree police officer and after one year, you get the same rate of pay close to a sergeant. They put us in specialized units. I stayed there for close to 5 years. I grew up in No. Andover, St. Michael’s High School, then off to college at Northeastern University. I was recruited by Northeastern; I worked for DEA in technical support/communications.
Duggan: So, what brought you back?
Gallagher: I live in No. Andover, since I was a kid and I went to Baltimore, had a child, my wife and I, my college sweetheart, and at that point, I was offered a job in No. Andover,
Duggan: When did you become a sergeant?
Gallagher: 1983, it was 1979 when I came back, and in 1983 I became a sergeant. In 1988 I became a detective sergeant and in 1989, a detective.
Duggan: How has the Department and the Town changed as far as Policing, since you came on, looking back since you first came on, what it was like then? What were the Police men were faced with then as opposed to what they are faced with now?
Gallagher: We only had two, two-man cars back in the 70’s. One guy did the downtown area and the other officers did the rest of the town, about three quarters of it. Then, as years go on, the technology and the growing of the out-country, at that point, there was a residential “boom”. The department started growing.
Duggan: Do you know how many guys you had back then?
Gallagher: I don’t, we have 40 now.
Duggan: What was the difference in the types of stuff you guys responded to, I imagine then, it was probably horse and buggies being stolen…
Gallagher: (laughing) No, it was stolen cars, a lot of domestics in those days. A lot of protective custody, because we didn’t have the Domestic Violence laws like we have now… usually, taking Mr. “Smith” to his mom’s house or to a Detox center. Now, we arrest, but generally in those days we knew most of the people by name as a regular. Now a days, the town has grown so much, commuting, industries and we have mandatory arrest policies.
Duggan: So, now you have a different kind of crime rate. A lot of the spillover from Lawrence, shootings… so how is that?
Gallagher: The drug trafficking causes a lot of issues, a lot of thefts, larcenies; we had a big problem in the North Andover mall for a while and then we worked down there quite often with the detectives, plain clothes and undercover officers. At that point it was well known that we were down there. That became a very safe area to be, it was good preventative policing.
Duggan: How has the training changed since you became a police officer?
Gallagher: Before then, all you had to do is go to a Police Academy. I went to the Baltimore Academy, so I just had to get re certified, take a test for the Mass Laws and that was it. After the Academy, there wasn’t much training for officers, firearms, or you know, the in-service training. Now, everything is mandatory, the officers are trained several times a year with their weapons and different conditions like during the day, during the night, tactical shooting, and working with the dogs which are great police tools.
Duggan: How are the dogs working out?
Gallagher: We have a German Shepard, Kyzer that’s a drug dog and a search dog. We have a bomb dog, ATF trained. The officer works with the ATF, US Marshall Service, they provide the dog, we just provide the officer and they provide the training.
Duggan: So, now I am sure that the chief’s job, compared to back then, is a lot different. What are the differences that you see from then to now, as far as the chief’s position itself?
Gallagher: The Chief now, really, is administrator. As far as the budget, it’s a lot larger. Now a days, you have a chain of command. You have several sergeants on the shifts; you have a command staff, lieutenants doing operations, doing detective investigations. Before, we had an all purpose chief, he did everything. He did the budget, he’d do the payroll but he also went out on patrol and other tings now we are mainly administrators.
Duggan: Is the job what you thought it was going to be like when you were just a lieutenant, now that you are in it?
Gallagher: It is different, I have to admit. I was the chief’s backup when he was on vacation and away at conferences, but at that point, I was still mainly detective commander, which I fully enjoyed. This type of work, most officers would love to do. I had a great chance to do it. Fighting crime and doing undercover work for Federal Authorities. But, now, it’s a lot of desk work, working with the public. More on the phone and on the internet, making means, the budget, working with the Unions. I still enjoy it and I know all of the officers, but it’s very different and I want to put some people in training to become command staff.
Duggan: What are your goals, how is the North Andover Police going to be different with you here rather than Chief Stanley. How is the North Andover Police Department going to operate differently?
Gallagher: One of the biggest tributes to follow Chief Stanley is we are an accredited agency. His policies and procedures worked great for quite a few things that we do, each officer knows it. Our rules and regulations book was probably an inch thick back then. Now, it’s probably 4 inches thick. So, there is a policy for practically everything, and that makes it a little easier to get things done in the department and do them right.
Duggan: When you came in, you must have had some goals in mind. What kind of changes are your officers and the people on the street going to see in the North Andover Police Department, your goals for the next year, the next two years?
Gallagher: To supervise the staff, to get them more trained to be administrators, to be the managers of the future for this department. I won’t be around forever and one of my first goals is to bring each officer in and ask them what they are looking for in the department. What goals are they looking for? What kind of training are they looking for? Generally, if an officer is interested in something, they will achieve that goal with support from the chief and I intend on giving them that support.
Duggan: What kind of citizen feedback do you get?
Gallagher: Our officers are unsung heroes. That huge snow storm last year, a guy told me that he was stuck in his house and an officer, even though the driveway was a sheet of ice, walked the whole way up the driveway to make sure I was alright. He wasn’t plowed out yet. The snow had to be two feet deep. It’s great because you hear stories about them, how they save people’s lives, they rescued them, how they did CPR. You don’t often read those stories in the paper…. well yours is different but you know what I mean.
Duggan: What are you going to need as chief going forward to run the department?
Gallagher: Well first I want to increase community policing. We are having a staff meeting shortly with the supervisors to see how we can reach out to the community more. We want to let the public know they can come to us with anything. So we go to clubhouses, community meetings, we hold the neighborhood crime watch, we go to homes, auditoriums, we’ve spoken to thousands of people in the last couple of years. Before, there was a team that was doing that, but now we are going to get all the supervisors involved doing it. So if something happens on their shift, they can deal with it and let the next supervisors know. We are trying to get the officers up to par so the command staff can step right in no matter who the supervisor is. As far as what I need, I would say just more training. You can never have a force that is trained too much. Say we are going to have tasers, we want them all to be training in that. We want them trained as much as we can.
One of the things we are going to be unveiling next week is an app for people’s smart phones, so people can contact us directly and immediately.
Duggan: How’s that going to work?
Gallagher: We’ll find out. (laughs). Seriously, if you download the app on your smart phone and there’s something going on in town, you can communicate directly with us. And it’s not just for emergencies, if you want to leave a tip or commend an officer, or you just have a general complaint you can be put right through to a supervisor. Just last night at national night out I had so many compliments about our officers. These are things we’d like to have documented. You know people always tell me we are so lucky to have home-grown police officers. They know the people in town and they have an ownership of the town. And that’s one of the reason I came back from Baltimore. There I was a badge number, here everyone has a name and most people know us by name that makes policing easier.
Duggan: Was this your lifelong dream to be a police chief?
Gallagher: Yes. My brother was in the FBI and he was one of my heroes. He graduated Northeastern University in ROTC, was a captain in Vietnam, came back and joined the FBI and J Edgar Hoover swore him in. He helped me pay for college and he was an inspiration. That’s what steered me to policing, but did I want to be a chief, yes of course. I think that is any officer’s dream. When Selectman Don Stewart asked officers ten years ago during their initial interview “what are you going to be in ten years”. Some guys say sergeant or lieutenant, most of them said they want to be chief. These guys are the future of the department and they are very proactive, they have already approached me about more training and ideas for moving the department forward and they are a credit to the town.
Duggan: Training takes money.
Gallagher: The town gave us what we need, and let me say the town leaders in North Andover are fantastic. They are behind us 100%. They really want the men to be safe and the citizens to be safe. So we have a new police station and a new community training room that is being outfitted through grants with flat screen TV’s and equipment so that experts can come in here and teach our officers. But if we go and ask other dept’s they may pay for their officers to come here and that defrays the cost. We do have other training opportunities too, we have training officer Sgt. Gray trying to get schools in the area for the men to train. Sometimes the state police or the FBI offer free training and if there are other classes that the officers may need we can always use the drug forfeiture fund. If we do a drug seizure where we seize someone’s cash or property it will go the district attorney’s office, go through the courts and eventually we will get back 5% to 50% of what we seized. We can use that money for training. So I know training is expensive and it’s critical but there are ways to make that happen and keep the force well trained when there are budget constraints.
Duggan: Do You see a lot of drug issues in North Andover?
Gallagher: We have a lot of investigations going on where they (drug dealers) use a home or an apartment in the area, they will use rented cars so we can’t seize them. In the past, we’ve gotten the Mercedes’, but they are getting smarter and more economical. I wouldn’t say it’s as bad as other places but we work with the DEA quite a bit. When we get drug forfeiture money we can use it for training and things like that you can’t use it to augment your budget, there are restrictions to what you can use it for. For example if you need overtime for an investigation we can use that. We don’t get a lot but what we get helps.
Duggan; Other communities have had to lay off police officers, North Andover hasn’t. Why is that?
Gallagher: Well the officers have given up a lot. They have given up their raises in the last several years. But I would say the town leaders always put public safety first. They have always been there for us. We have recommended staffing, four officers on the road at all times. Last year the ice and snow budget hurt us we had to cut the budget we had to take our traffic officers and school resource officers and put them back to patrol. But I would say having the selectmen really understand the importance of public safety and backing us up is the main reason.