Duval reflects on 27-year career with Concord police
After 27 and a half years with the Concord Police Department, Chief John Duval leaves the police headquarters in Concord for the last time on December 20, 2013.
(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
After 27 and a half years with the Concord Police Department, Chief John Duval leaves the police headquarters in Concord for the last time.
(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
Earlier this week, John Duval, Concord’s outgoing police chief, sat at a conference table thumbing through a small spiral-bound notebook. Dressed in slacks and a tie – civilian attire – he stopped as he reached a page marked Dec. 18, 1988.
He was 27 then, still a rookie officer in the department’s patrol unit. It was not an especially eventful day – he worked the evening shift, wrote a few tickets and nabbed an habitual offender, according to the notebook, a sort of professional diary he kept at the time – but he’s been thinking about it and the thousands of others that have defined his nearly three-decade career, which came to a close yesterday when he officially retired.
Duval, 52, is not finished professionally. He will soon take over as head of security at Concord Hospital; his deputy chief, Bradley Osgood, has been tapped as interim chief while city officials search for a permanent replacement.
Duval was hired in 1986, fresh off a six-year stint in the U.S. Air Force. He spent his first decade in the department’s patrol division
and community resources unit, where he served as its first DARE officer in charge of drug prevention education, before moving to investigations of youth-related crimes.
Duval was promoted to patrol sergeant in 1998 and to lieutenant two years later, and again to deputy chief in 2005. He was named chief in 2011, after the retirement of his predecessor, Robert Barry.
Duval’s approach as chief owed a great deal to the succession of men that went before him: Barry, Jerry Madden, Bill Halacy and, of course, David Walchak. Walchak was a benchmark for them all, Duval said. Walchak took over in 1975 and made a concerted effort to modernize the department through better training, broader recruitment and a more extensive community presence.
Duval has worked to carry forth the torch. Since 2011, he’s doubled the size of the department’s bicycle fleet, to 14, reintroduced motorcycle patrols and advised officers to step out of their cruisers whenever possible.
“No one’s going to go up to a car,” Duval said. “But when you’re on a bike or on foot, the dynamic changes.”
The goal, he said, is to get a better understanding of what’s going on in the community, and in turn a better understanding of what problems need to be addressed. It’s an approach that may prove less efficient in the short run, but one that pays off in the longer term.
“If we put a focus on business districts and neighborhoods with officers that may be not in a car, then for those otherwise lower-tiered calls, folks may have to wait a period of time,” Duval said. “But the trade-off is we’re getting a benefit that may be greater with the contact of the officers.”
In the future, especially after the redesign of Main Street is completed, Duval would like to see that idea of community policing pushed even further, with the introduction of an officer dedicated specifically to the downtown area, and another to downtown Penacook.
Duval has also focused on mental health and domestic violence. He hired a domestic violence officer who works with victims of abuse and their families, and enhanced the training that officers receive for responding to calls involving the mentally ill. Concord officers handle mental health-related calls routinely, largely because the city is home to the state hospital and several community treatment centers.
Today, officers receive mandatory crisis intervention training and are required to spend eight days each year training in that and other fields. The goal, Duval said, is to maintain and expand on the tools they learned at the beginning of their careers.
Duval also took over just after the recession, and he’s worked to secure the funding and resources to return the department to its pre-2008 size. He’s hired more full-time dispatchers and part-time help for the evidence unit, and received budgetary help from the city.
Duval said his strategy in fighting crime is to flood it with resources, rather than bandage it and walk away. “It may or may not save you money in the long run,” he said, “but what you’re doing is, if you solve that crime, you just saved yourself six or seven other crimes that that person might have committed had you not put the resources there at the beginning.”
Finally, with regard to the BearCat, the armored vehicle over which he drew intense scrutiny this summer for trying to acquire, Duval has this to say: “I’m not leaving because of the BearCat.”
“The life of that argument on whether we should or shouldn’t was fueled by some poor language out of context, and for that I take responsibility. That’s on me,” he said. “But I make no apologies for trying to get an asset and a resource that can ultimately protect my staff and protect the public.
“If Dave Walchak taught me anything, it’s prepare our department for the future,” Duval added. “I would have been remiss as a police chief if I didn’t go after what I thought was needed, and ultimately the (city) council felt the same. I would do that fight three times over.”
(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)