For those of us who thought that cops just sit around eating donuts, that judges only care about sending people to prison, or that firefighters sleep all day until a cat gets stuck in a tree, Criminal Justice and Public Safety Day was quite the eye-opening experience.
For our first stop, we met at the Greater Nashua YMCA where we were greeted by Nashua Police Chief Michael Carignan. Chief Carignan, a 28-year veteran of the force, began with a brief overview of the department’s organizational structure and then moved on to discuss the changes the department has gone through over the years. Among these changes are the ways in which policing has adapted to address the challenges today’s officers face; challenges that Chief Carignan did not experience during his time as a young patrolman. To combat these challenges, he provides his officers with extensive training and a variety of resources, including diversity and community policing training and mental/physical health programs aimed at making sure his employees remain both physically and mentally fit for duty.
Nashua Police Lieutenant Carlos Camacho followed the Chief and began by discussing his passion for community policing and his love for finding ways to keep kids out of trouble. He described the many ways that he volunteers his time, as well as his efforts to train officers to interact effectively with children. He also discussed the Mirror Project, which teaches children how to positively interact with officers. As a result of his efforts and the Mirror Project, New Hampshire has been nationally recognized for its low number of arrests of minority children. Lt. Camacho also discussed the cultural diversity training which officers receive at the New Hampshire Police Academy. This training started off as just a two-hour block and has grown into 16 hours of training that includes segments on bias and procedural justice.
The police department’s Community Policing Coordinator Barbara Costa also spoke with our group. Ms. Costa described her passion for working with underserved populations and for training others in diversity and inclusion. In her position, she handles a variety of complaints from community members, most of which are resolved by her referring residents to available community resources. She attends all crime watch meetings and helps to find ways in which the police department can address quality of life issues that city residents face.
We then headed over to Nashua Police Department, where we observed demonstrations from the Drone, K9, Hazardous Device, and Firearms Training Units. We learned about each unit’s capabilities as well as the high level of training that officers assigned to these units receive. Our tour ended with a hands-on overview of the department’s Bearcat rescue vehicle and then a shooting demonstration in the indoor firing range.
After our tour, we returned to the YMCA where we met with Special Agent Mark Hastbacka of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. We enjoyed lunch while Agent Hastbacka discussed the exciting path that his career has taken him on, which included assignments tracking suspects in the 911 attacks and the Boston Marathon bombings. Agent Hastbacka described the FBI’s proactive approach to law enforcement, which emphasizes stopping crimes before they happen.
As our day transitioned from Police to Fire, we made our way over to the Lake Street Fire Station where we were greeted by Chief Brian Rhodes. Chief Rhodes, who began his career with NFR in 1987, quizzed us on our knowledge of the fire department and rewarded those who had the right answers with NFR challenge coins. Fellow LGN member Captain Bob Barrows then joined the Chief for a presentation that highlighted the department’s mission statement and organizational structure. We learned about the different firehouses in Nashua, as well as their training, mechanical, and special operations divisions. As we learned about the special operations divisions, the capabilities of the Hazmat and Dive units were featured and it was fascinating to learn about the various missions undertaken by these units.
Following the presentation, we were escorted to the main bay area where the station’s vast fleet of apparatus are kept. To say this area was clean and orderly would be an understatement. The building was spotless and the high level of care that goes into maintaining the equipment was immediately apparent. Captain Barrows showed us the Dive Unit truck and had a Dive Unit uniform and some personal equipment on display for us to see. We then met with Captain Glen Telgen and Lieutenant Matt Parzych who walked us through the Hazmat Unit truck and the incredible amount of equipment that it stores. Captain Telgen discussed what it is like being on the Hazmat Unit and it was impressive to hear his experience of responding to calls while working on that unit.
For our last stop of the day, we headed over to the Nashua District Court where we met with Judge Tina Nadeau and Attorneys Michele Battaglia and Amanda Armillay. Their presentation focused on the Drug Court and the ways that this program can help those who are struggling with substance misuse. We learned all about the different steps and phases that the program takes, including incentives for when participants are doing well or sanctions when they fall off course. An interesting fact we learned was that it takes approximately $40K to incarcerate someone for one year, but just $12K to keep them in drug court. Judge Nadeau explained how drug court uses evidence-based practices to keep drug offenders out of jail in exchange for participation in an extensive and demanding treatment program. Attorney Battaglia, who is a prosecutor, and Attorney Armillay, who is a public defender, spoke about the opposing roles that drug court requires of them. Attorney Battaglia spoke about the shift from prosecuting offenders to advocating for them in drug court, while Attorney Armillay indicated her tendency to be strict on offenders when they fall out of compliance with the program.
Criminal Justice and Public Safety Day proved to be an excellent day. We learned all about the capabilities of our Fire and Police departments and then had the opportunity to meet with an acting judge and two attorneys. The day proved to be a great learning experience for all in attendance and each of us left with a better appreciation for our city workers in the criminal justice and public safety fields.
By: Lieutenant Clark Gaphardt, Nashua Police Department