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Hail to the Chief

Chief Giaccone A.JPGIt doesn’t happen too often that one can like and respect someone who holds a profoundly wrong position — or at least a position contrary to one’s own views that one considers wrong — but that is the case for me with Hanover Police Chief Nick Giaccone, who retired on October 1.

The Chief understands that well meaning people might not have the same beliefs about the enforcement of the drinking laws that he holds, but that didn’t ever prevent him from returning phone calls, responding to written inquiries, and repeatedly taking time to sit down and discuss his views on alcohol and other legal questions.

In short, to use a term no longer often employed, Chief Giaccone is a straight-up guy. His deeper values for telling the truth, and for patiently describing the evidence on which his views are based, far outweigh whatever irritation he might feel at his persistent critics. As Margaret Thatcher once said about a statesman whose views differed from hers, but who was fundamentally decent, too, “We can do business together.” That decency is the foundation that lets disparate people work cooperatively; there is too little of it in the world today.

As an example, I never felt any reticence in sharing a Dartlog post about policing with the Chief before it was published. His responses were always polite, and if he disagreed with a fact, he would furnish me with solid citations to ensure that I did not make an error. I didn’t always agree with his suggestions for changing editorial positions, but he understood that I would listen to him, and then perhaps we might agree to disagree. No hard feelings either way. What a pleasure.

Giaccone’s forty-year career with the Hanover Police recalls a time when ballplayers worked their way up through the minors and stayed with the same team for their entire career. After a first job delivering kegs to Dartmouth fraternities at the store that is now called Stinson’s, Giaccone joined the Hanover force and did virtually every job on the way to becoming Chief. As such, he can provide a rare kind of leadership: he knows directly what he’s talking about when he supervises his officers.

The Hanover force is well run, and lo and behold, they catch criminals. From the members of a music group that recently pilfered electronics from a frat, to the thief who broke into cars and homes in my own Hanover neighborhood — my wife and I helped out with the incident — the Hanover Po seems to regularly run down bad guys. We might all have the impression that there is not a lot of crime in the Upper Valley, and while that is for the most part true, it is not entirely the case. White River Junction, for instance, has more than its share of miscreants, but they know not to come up to Hanover. We have Chief Giaccone to thank for that fact and for the top-to-bottom professionalism of his force.

May he have a long and happy retirement.

Addendum: The Chief’s replacement could well be someone with different views from his on the enforcement of the underage drinking laws. The D reports:

Hanover will employ an executive search firm as it begins a national search and aims to select a chief within four to five months. The search will focus on candidates with experience working in college towns.

Given that most-college town police departments use their discretion and do not enforce the drinking laws in the case of on-campus alcohol consumption by underage students — Harvard, Columbia, Penn and Brown haven’t had an alcohol arrest in years — we could soon see an important change in town-gown relations in Hanover.

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