The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 21, 2005


A talk with members of the Carlisle Police Department

The following is the second installment in an occasional series on the Carlisle Police Department. This week, Officer Andy Booth, Sergeant Tom Whalen, and Lieutenant John Sullivan spoke about their backgrounds, their most interesting experiences in Carlisle, and the ways in which their careers have grown recently through participation in NEMLEC (the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council.) NEMLEC is a consortium of 35 police departments in northeastern Massachusetts who coordinate their efforts and share information in order to improve the crime-fighting capabilities of each individual agency.

Offficer Andy Booth
Officer Andy Booth (Photo by Midge Eliassen)

His route to Carlisle, both professional and personal: I attended the University of New Haven, originally planning to study fire science. But I took a few courses in criminal justice, criminal procedure, and forensics, and found it really interesting. My grandfather has always lived in Carlisle; my father was born and raised here, and I grew up in Chelmsford but spent most of my time at my grandparents' house on River Road. I always wanted to work in a small town. I joined the Carlisle police force part-time in 1999 and full-time in 2002.

Areas of expertise: I'm the town's community policing officer/safety officer, and I'm certified as a child passenger safety technician. I install infant car seats and booster seats when people request it, or check to make sure they're positioned properly. I had to take a week-long course to get that certification. It's amazing how detailed putting in a car seat is.

High-speed chases and other interesting times to be at work: People think nothing happens in Carlisle, but I've already been involved in two vehicle pursuits [high-speed chases]. I worked on [solving] last summer's housebreaks, too. It's not that I'm happy when people's houses get broken into, but I really do enjoy processing the crime scene, looking for fingerprints, all that stuff. I'm very interested in forensics work.

What lies ahead: In college, I studied forensics with Henry Lee, the world-renowned forensics expert who worked on the OJ case, the Jon-Benet Ramsey investigation, and a lot of other high-profile cases. I wish I'd gone on to get my master's in forensics. Right now, that's definitely on the back burner, though. I have a five-year-old son and another child due in June, so there's no time to go back to school now. Plus I'm really happy with what I do.

Sargeant Thomas Whelan

Sargeant Thomas Whelan (Photo by Midge Eliassen)
His career path: I served in the U.S. Navy for four years. After I left the Navy, it was hit-or-miss as far as what I'd do next. I got hired by the Northeastern University police squad. From there I went to Carlisle, spent five years on the Concord force, and then came back to Carlisle. I was promoted to sergeant seven years ago.

How his work extends far beyond Carlisle: Two years ago, I joined the NEMLEC (North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council) tactical police unit, and last year I became part of their SWAT [Special Weapons and Tactics] team. I served with the SWAT team at the Democratic National Convention in Boston last summer and outside of Fenway Park during the World Series. Being on duty in Boston during the last game of the World Series was the most memorable moment of my career so far. The game was in St. Louis, but in the Fenway people were throwing rocks, throwing bottles, lighting fires. Next week, I'm going to Washington, DC with 60 other members of the NEMLEC SWAT team to help with security at the presidential inauguration.

Other professional talents: I'm a black belt in karate. I owned my own studio and taught karate for several years, but I eventually had to give it up because of work. I'm also a carpenter by trade; I do a lot of work on my own house and other people's houses as well.

Lieutenant John Sullivan

Lieutenant John Sullivan (Photo by Midge Eliassen)
How he became a patrolman while still a teenager: I grew up in Lexington. After high school, I was accepted into Lexington's police cadet program. So I've been going out in a cruiser since I was eighteen years old! The pay was minimal, but the program paid half my college tuition, and I got to work in a great police department. I graduated from Northeastern with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and took the civil service exam, but there were no jobs available at the time, so I did a few years of security administration for a high-tech corporation. I started working part-time in Carlisle in 1985 and got hired full-time two years later. Later, I went back to school for a master's in criminal justice.

His most poignant memory: My first year as a full-time officer, I answered a call on Brook Street about a baby who had stopped breathing. After about two minutes of CPR, he came back around. I'll never forget that.

Areas of particular interest: I oversee the Restorative Justice and Domestic Violence programs here in town, and I'm the department's court officer. I also head our detective unit. That's the kind of work that interests me most. This is what I've learned about good detective work: if you take your time, be thorough, be patient, and collect your evidence, you'll eventually succeed in getting the [perpetrator]. It's very hard to do detective work well, because it takes so much time and energy. But the satisfaction is great.

What his eight-year-old son was for Halloween: A police officer! Right now, he says that's what he wants to be. I'd deter him from that decision if I could. It's not the danger; it's the hours. When I was first promoted to sergeant, I worked weekends for five years. Night shifts, holidays, detailsit's very hard on family life.

How he helped solve last summer's housebreaks: As part of NEMLEC, I attend monthly detective meetings with police from towns all around us. The same housebreaker was hitting fifteen communities. Carlisle was one of three departments to get a print. Lexington had a vehicle description. We all worked together to get the suspect.

The infamous transfer station incident: Last spring I was assigned to a detail at the transfer station, turning people away if they drove in without a current [transfer station] sticker. Believe it or not, I accepted the detail mostly because I wanted to see some of the local residents whom I hadn't seen in a while. More than two hundred people showed up without stickers. We tallied the excuses: husbands said it was their wives' fault; wives said it was their husbands' fault; everyone said their sticker was on their other car. After years of nonenforcement of the sticker rule, people were ripping mad at getting turned away, but it's what I was being paid to do. Finally, the last man who showed up without a sticker got so angry that I had to conclude he was either going to hit me or have a heart attack. It wasn't worth having either one happen, so I let him in. But of course I took down his plates and found out who he was. When the detail ended, I went back to the police station and the same guy was standing at the dispatcher's window. I thought he was buying a sticker, but he was actually writing me a note of apology.

What he wants people to know: This department does a fantastic job. You might read about all the quirky stuff we do in the police blotter [printed in the Mosquito], but the degree of technical expertise and professionalism in this department is unbelievable.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito