Hampton's Police Department

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"Our Town" By James W. Tucker

Hampton Union

Thursday, c. 1951

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We neglected, two weeks ago, to mention another Hampton Beach pioneer and a chap we should not have forgotten, for he has been for many years, a neighbor of ours. Bill Stickney was a member of the original Hampton Beach volunteer fire department and has continued with the department ever since. Years ago he served as a member of the police force. In fact, we think he was Hampton's first motorcycle cop. Are there others who live on Hampton Beach and have been residents there for at least 35 years?

The police department of our town, or of any town, for that matter, may be either the community's greatest asset or its worst liability. And in a recreational community, like Hampton, a police department and its personnel is of much greater relative importance to the business of the town than any other municipal department. A poor Police department in a recreational community can undo in one season all of the good and costly promotion work that an excellent Chamber of Commerce has accomplished in the three previous seasons.

In this era of intensive motor travel, with all its attendant and very necessary traffic and parking laws, regulations and ordinances a small-town police department becomes, in effect, the official greeter of that town.

If the police of this community are uniformly efficient, courteous and fair, business people and visitors profit alike and everyone is happy and contented. However, if, on the other hand, the local police are inefficient, discourteous unfair and discriminatory, the business of the community suffers and recreational visitors are very unhappy. As a matter of fact, they usually leave and never return. And that's not all -- visitors who have suffered at the hands of an inefficient and discourteous police force will go out of their way to tell their relatives and friends about the matter. And, incidents of this kind are usually magnified many times over in the telling and retelling.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, a police force reflects, down to the last humble rookie, the ability and personality of the department head. If the chief, or marshal, as the case may be, is a well trained official with an inherent sense of courtesy, justice and fair play, he can and does eventually instill these high qualities in the men who serve under him. If the police department head is without experience or training and is naturally ill-mannered and boorish, expect nothing different from the subordinates who make up his force.

There are cases, and they are not infrequent, where the head of the police department is chief in name only and the real head may be an aldermanic committee, a board of selectmen or a police commission. Perhaps the real head may he a single member or one of those governing groups. Politics in the police department of small or large communities usually spells disaster. Police officers soon know or sense the fact that the head of their department is dictated to in relation to many matters in which he should have the sole authority members of the governing board who usually lack fundamental knowledge of police work. Authority and discipline, in such cases, is sadly under-mined.