'Above reproach': A high standard, often met
"You have to be above reproach."
That is how Kensington Police Chief Mike Sielicki, the incoming president of the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police Association, described the ethics of being a chief of police. "You have to have more integrity in what you do, and that gives credibility to our profession."
In interviews with the New Hampshire Sunday News last week, that theme was repeated by chiefs of police across New Hampshire. Derry Police Chief Edward Garone, the longest-serving police chief in New Hampshire, is one of only three chiefs in the nation to have served their communities for more than 40 years. He told the Sunday News that when he was a new officer he was told, "People will look at you differently. They will hold you to a higher standard, and if you're not willing to accept that, don't get into this profession."
That's something. How many jobs come with that kind of warning - and with people who readily accept that kind of challenge?
"We are entrusted with a tremendous amount of authority given us by those we serve," Garone said. Most New Hampshire police chiefs seem to understand that. One little mistake, and they can erode the community's trust in the whole police department, in all police departments everywhere.
Here in New Hampshire, recent bad news regarding the conduct of some police chiefs and officers has disappointed the public, but probably not as much as it has disappointed their counterparts. New London Police Chief David Seastrand resigned after being accused of offering to drop charges against a pretty college student if she would pose nude for him. Other women reported similar complaints after the story broke. Danville Chief Wade Parsons was charged last week with negligent storage of a firearm after a 15-year-old boy found Parsons' service gun and killed himself with it. A Manchester police officer was fired after allegedly hitting two teenage boys in Bedford while driving home in his undercover patrol car, then fleeing the scene.
After these incidents, it was heartening to hear so many police chiefs explain with genuine concern that they hold themselves to higher standards of conduct because that is what the public expects. There will always be a few bad apples. But in New Hampshire they are not spoiling the bunch, and the public ought to know that, and be thankful for it.