By Kyle Stucker
Hampton Union, October 17, 2014
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON — In his more than 30 years in the Hampton Police Department, Jamie Sullivan has seen more than his fair share of tragedies and danger.
Friends and colleagues have been gunned down in the line of duty, and Sullivan’s seen young lives cut far too short.
Despite that, placing himself in harm’s way to help locals through emergencies and times of need is something Sullivan said he’s found incredibly rewarding. That’s because it has helped him forge deep connections within his department and community, and it’s a role Sullivan said he’ll greatly miss when he officially retires as police chief at the end of the month.
"The way in which you can help people in crisis in this profession, I suspect, is like few others," said Sullivan. "You’re the person, good or bad, that people turn to when things go wrong and you have the opportunity to have a positive effect on them pretty quickly. I’ll miss that — being able to on that visceral level help people at that point and time."
Sullivan, 51, who has been Hampton’s chief since 2006, will step down Nov. 1 to assume the role of assistant town manager and human resources coordinator.
While it’ll be a change for Sullivan not to be in what he called the law enforcement "front seat," Sullivan said he looks forward to a new opportunity to serve the town he’s enjoyed calling home since coming to the police department as a part-time officer in the summer of 1984.
"It’ll keep me busy," said Sullivan, who won’t be a complete stranger to Town Hall because he’s served as Hampton’s acting town manager at various times in the past.
Sullivan is no stranger to busy, either. Ever since his first summer patrolling Hampton Beach on a motorcycle — a rare assignment for a rookie officer — Sullivan has been thrust right into a bustling environment, one he said has instilled a lot of "pride" as well as "stress" over the years.
The Chelmsford, Mass., native’s career in Hampton’s trademark green uniforms also began with some dramatic moments that wouldn’t seem out of place on a procedural TV show.
During a midnight shift three months into the job after completing his first summer patrol, Sullivan and another rookie officer responded to a burglary report involving a suspicious vehicle on Timber Swamp Road.
The car’s engine was still warm, and Sullivan remembers his superiors thinking that the individuals sought in connection to the report were outside a building in the area. Sullivan and the other rookie were tasked with checking the inside of a nearby building anyway, and recalling the events that happened next elicited a short laugh from Sullivan during a recent interview in his office.
"Knowing what I know and what I came to know later, we did everything wrong that we could possibly have done," he said.
That’s because Sullivan and the other officer quickly found themselves in the middle of an armed standoff with the suspected burglars. The suspects had broken into the building and "gotten their hands on a long rifle and a handgun," according to Sullivan, and they weren’t initially too pleased with the prospect of being apprehended.
Sullivan said he was "lucky" that the "little standoff" ended with no injuries and the arrest of the individuals on armed robbery charges, although he said it’s one case that has stuck with him over the years.
Other cases and moments Sullivan said he’ll always remember also include his work to help numerous Boston-area and federal agencies apprehend the 2013 Boston Marathon bomber, as well as the April 2012 shooting death of Mike Maloney, a friend and chief of the Greenland Police Department.
"That will be a tragic memory that will stay with us forever," Sullivan said of Maloney’s murder, which occurred during a drug raid in Greenland.
There are a number of happier memories as well. From helping a young girl choking at the beach to numerous police jokes and stories not fit for print, as well as his work to help form the Seacoast Emergency Response Team, Sullivan said there have been some "fantastic" moments and people he’ll always cherish.
"Most of the things in the cases you talk about are terrible events that happen to people, but there are fun times," said Sullivan. "Those things add up in a police officer’s career. There are many of those things that, until you have a chance to sit back and think about them and reflect back, they don’t really register."
The pride Sullivan takes in serving Hampton is readily apparent on his face and in his voice as he describes his career and the various ways he’s helped local citizens.
The recipient of five letters of commendation, three medals of merit and one medal of bravery also talks with a similar and equally as great level of pride and passion while describing the 25 years he spent building and coaching various wrestling programs in the area, including Winnacunnet High School’s team.
Coaching wrestling gave the self-described family man a chance to give back to the community as well as help shape young individuals. This shaping and guidance, Sullivan said, is similar to the approach he took as a police officer in the community.
He tried to be more than just a guy wearing a badge, and Sullivan said he hopes to bring a similar approach to Town Hall when he becomes Town Manager Fred Welch’s second-in-command next month.
Sullivan still has to make it through a department retirement party first, though. That should include plenty of friendly ribbing from his colleagues as well as a number of humorous and embarrassing stories.
That party will also serve as one of several bittersweet final moments in Sullivan’s heralded law enforcement career, which he hopes is followed by a town government career using his expertise to overcome the "global picture challenges" of running a municipality.
"I leave no regrets," said Sullivan, who has been interested in being a town manager or working in town government, for a "number" of years. "I like to call it a ‘transition’ as opposed to a retirement."
Sullivan will be paid a salary of $81,036 to serve as assistant town manager position and human resources coordinator. The position will be a 32-hour-per-week job without benefits, allowing Sullivan to collect his benefits from the state’s retirement system.
Sullivan made $107,135 as police chief in 2013, according to town records.
Residents have raised concerns that Sullivan’s new position and police pension allows him to double-dip, which is a retirement system term used by many around the state in recent years.
Town Manager Fred Welch has said Sullivan’s position was created because the town needed someone to alleviate the load on his office as well as someone who can assume the HR responsibilities of Assistant Town Attorney Wanda Robertson, who recently and unexpectedly passed away.
The creation of the position, according to Welch, saves the town money because Hampton has eliminated the town attorney position and therefore won’t have to give someone else a salary and benefits while at the same time contributing to Sullivan’s pension.
Deputy Police Chief Rich Sawyer has been selected to replace Sullivan as chief. Sawyer will take over the department on Nov. 1.