The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 30, 2005


Parting thoughts from Police Chief David Galvin

Today is Dave Galvin's last day on the job here in Carlisle. It was 31 years ago in 1974 when, at the age of 24, he joined the Carlisle Police Department. Four years later, he was named chief. I sat down and spoke with the modest, soft-spoken Galvin last week in his office at the police station. There was a list of questions that I was eager to ask before he left town.

Plans for the future

Galvin, with a degree from Mass. School of Law, would like to set up a law office in Carlisle. "I've been talking to people in the town center about it. The last person to have a law practice in the center of town was Howard Hensleigh," recalls Galvin. Galvin is also eager to brush up on several areas of law, including criminal defense work, through courses offered by the Continued Legal Education program in Boston. "I left law school ten years ago," he reminds me. "I'll need to be looking at a defendant in a different light."

Then there are the projects at his home in Winchester, which he hopes to complete, including the task of taking his daughter Libby, a high school senior, to look at colleges. Besides Libby, Galvin's family includes his wife Margaret, an emergency room doctor at Lahey Clinic, and another daughter, Kate, a college sophomore.

Police Department headquarters

Asked about the various sites that the Police Department has occupied over the past 30 years, Galvin explained, "When I came to work here in 1974, [population 2,871] the police occupied one room in the Town Offices [now the second floor of the Gleason Public Library, facing Bedford Road]. At that time the dispatcher, Esther Wilson, had an office in her house so the one room was adequate for a chief and three officers. Once Esther retired in 1979, the town needed a place for the dispatcher, so he took over the office and "we moved to a trailer behind the library. For a good seven years," he adds. "In 1987 we moved to our present location, the former site of the DPW and the Carlisle Fire Department." Now, as of the 2004 census, with a population of 5,415, Carlisle has a Police Chief and 11 full-time, college-educated officers.

Changes Galvin has seen over the past 30 years

The biggest changes Galvin has seen are in the areas of domestic abuse and traffic complaints. As for domestic abuse, Galvin reports that the police are taking a different approach, now that they have had more training, and after a change in the law that allows the police to charge an alleged abuser with assault and battery. "Previously an assault and battery had to have taken place in the presence of a police officer." Galvin is pleased with the department's collaboration with the Domestic Violence Assistance Program, which provides assistance to individuals in abusive relationships. "For too many people, violence these days seems to be an accepted way to deal with anger," Galvin sadly reports. "The media needs to take some responsibility for a lot of that. Domestic violence, specifically, is very often a learned response to frustration and anger and is tragically repeated with each generation. It is a cycle that needs to be broken for those families in crisis."

Traffic complaints have multiplied as the population of Carlisle and neighboring suburbs has increased, says Galvin. With more traffic, motorists and bikers, moving through town — 6,000 to 7,000 cars per hour during the 7 to 8:30 a.m. peak — there are more traffic accidents, congestion and complaints. Asked about the footpaths that have been built in town, Galvin expresses strong support. "The footpaths are helping. I'm strongly in favor of building them, especially with so much traffic, it's hazardous to be out on the street. We desperately need them." Galvin smiles and adds, "If people are heading to Kimball's for ice cream, they might feel less guilty if they park their car at the library and walk there on the footpath."

Teenagers and the police

When asked about teenagers and the police, Galvin reports a stricter approach on the part of the police to teenage driving and alcohol abuse. In regard to alcohol abuse, he notes, the schools are now organizing after-prom parties at the school or at designated sites. And what about teens and drugs in Carlisle? "I don't see a lot of drugs in this community," says Galvin. "There was much more in the seventies."

Restorative Justice

When asked about the department's involvement in the Restorative Justice Program, Galvin replies, "This program has been a plus for the community. Once a child commits a minor violation of the law," he explains, " an alternative to court action is available through the Restorative Justice Program. The perpetrator and victim, along with a trained facilitator and a member of the Police Department sit down together to try to get the perpetrator to understand the ramifications of his or her actions. This usually involves a case of vandalism and minor breaking and entering. Several cases in the past year have been successfully addressed through this program." Speaking of breaking and entering, Galvin reports there are only a few housebreaks in Carlisle these days.

"The most horrific case"

I ask Galvin to tell me about the most challenging or difficult case that he has had to handle over the past 30 years. Galvin immediately counters with, "You mean the most horrific case." With that he goes on to describe the murder that took place on Litchfield Drive on September 12, 1985. "This fellow named Ramos met a girl at a bar in Cambridge. At 2 a.m. they landed on Litchfield Drive in Carlisle. He cut her throat, and as she attempted to run away, he drove over her body and then set her on fire. By chance, a police officer who was driving down Lowell Street saw the fire, turned the cruiser around and headed back towards Litchfield Drive. As the officer was about to turn onto Litchfield Drive, a car pulled out and almost sideswiped the cruiser. The officer radioed another officer, asking him to check out the fire while she went after the perpetrator heading down Lowell Street towards Chelmsford. Before reaching the Chelmsford line, the police officer was able to pull him over and, seeing him covered with blood, called the Chelmsford Police for assistance. In the meantime, the other officer found the deceased victim on fire, covered her body, and put out the fire. I was called at home, came out to the scene, and then oversaw the investigation. Ramos, the perpetrator, went to trial, was found guilty, and given a life sentence."

Training in 2005

In 1974, to become a police officer meant spending eight weeks at the Police Academy. In 2005, it takes 26 weeks. "It is important to be proficient in using computers and to have some training in cybercrime. They spend much more time discussing and learning the finer points of the law," reports Galvin. "More time is spent on safety issues like defensive driving, firearms training and defensive tactics. All officers wear body armor — bulletproof vests to protect them from knives and bullets."

Is there a shortage of police officers, I ask? "There is no shortage of applicants," answers Galvin. "Female applicants have dropped off in the past six to ten years. We need more women officers in the department. I just hired three new officers and one is a woman."

Remembering some of the "fun" things

Galvin smiles when asked to recall some of the fun things he did in Carlisle. Old Home Day festivities, of course, are at the top of his list. "Being a judge at the pie baking contest each year has been great, but not the dunking booth," he laughs. "Old Home Day has the feel of yesteryear, like Walton's Mountain on TV in the '70s. I've loved the small town feel of Carlisle. It's a place where you can get to know people and where you can have an effect on the quality of life."

Planning for a new police chief

Lt. John Sullivan will be the acting chief until there is a final appointment, reports Galvin. "There is a board, made up of two Selectmen, the Town Administrator and a representative of the personnel board, which is interviewing applicants right now. They will make a decision by November 1, which will then go to the full Board of Selectmen for approval. The new Police Chief will take over by December 1.

"This is a good professional department," continues Galvin. "The transition between myself and Lt. Sullivan will be seamless. It takes more than one person to run a department. There are a lot of hard-working people here who will continue the best possible service for the people of Carlisle. Things will be fine." Galvin shakes his head and adds, "I can't believe how the time has passed."

For more information on the Police Department see Kathy Coyle's article, "Galvin sets retirement date. . ." in the June 24 issue of the Mosquito.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito