M/cloudy
49°
M/cloudy
Hi 67° | Lo 41°

Chief bailiff, former cop reflects on fifty years in law enforcement

  • Lt. Leo DeGreenia. He's been in law enforcement for 50 years. Retiring in June, DeGreenia on the second floor of the Superior Court where his office used to be.

    Lt. Leo DeGreenia. He's been in law enforcement for 50 years. Retiring in June, DeGreenia on the second floor of the Superior Court where his office used to be.

  • Lt. Leo DeGreenia. He's been in law enforcement for 50 years. Retiring in June, DeGreenia on the second floor of the Superior Court where his office used to be.

    Lt. Leo DeGreenia. He's been in law enforcement for 50 years. Retiring in June, DeGreenia on the second floor of the Superior Court where his office used to be.

  • Lt. Leo DeGreenia. He's been in law enforcement for 50 years. Retiring in June, DeGreenia on the second floor of the Superior Court where his office used to be.
  • Lt. Leo DeGreenia. He's been in law enforcement for 50 years. Retiring in June, DeGreenia on the second floor of the Superior Court where his office used to be.

Leo DeGreenia joined the Concord Police Department 50 years ago to the month. The process lasted two days and comprised a written test, an oath and a quick change of clothes. Someone handed him a badge and a loaded revolver, and he was on his way, at age 23.

A few things have changed in the half-century since. Handheld radios are readily available, for one, as are computers, bulletproof vests and an array of Space Age novelties. Becoming a police officer is a bit more involved. Criminals are a bit more informed. And DeGreenia, 73, has a bit less hair.

It’s been 22 years since DeGreenia retired from the department, but he has remained active in the field, working as a bailiff and head of security at Merrimack County Superior Court. In June, though, he plans to pack it in for the last time.

“It’s a different lifestyle, for me and my wife,” he said of retirement. “But we’ve been looking forward to it.”

DeGreenia, a Concord native and Air Force veteran, entered the department during a decade of great change. At the time, he said, the city had just four cruisers and a motorcycle. He was assigned to a walking patrol in the beginning, and transferred three months later to Cruiser 2, monitoring activity between Penacook and Center Street.

The cruiser’s radio, a luxury in those days, received just one channel, which was often overtaken by static or stray out-of-state conversations. Dispatchers often turned to an elaborate network of call boxes, lights and ringing bells to communicate with patrolmen.

Procedures that today take just seconds to complete were more cumbersome, DeGreenia said. Verifying a driver’s registration during a traffic stop could take upward of a half-hour, as files had to be found and retrieved manually. Reports were written mostly by hand.

Crime was less prevalent back then, DeGreenia said. His early duties included traffic stops and evening security checks. Things began to pick up toward the end of the ’60s, however.

The department hired more men and purchased more cruisers. Delinquency became a chief concern; teens were drinking more, stealing more, and more frequently discovering marijuana.

“Sure, we knew about the other drugs – heroin, cocaine – but, you know, that was the big city, not Concord,” DeGreenia said.

DeGreenia became the city’s first juvenile officer in 1970, a position created as part of a statewide effort to improve youth policing. He oversaw the Concord Boys Club when it was still run by the police and before women joined in 1983.

He attended classes at night, earning a bachelor’s degree from St. Anselm College in 1975, and a master’s from Rivier College in 1979. He knew education would help him move up the police ranks.

“I wanted to be more than just a patrolman,” DeGreenia said. “There’s nothing wrong with someone being a patrolman for 30 years. But I wanted to be more than that.”

He added, “During all this time, be it weekends, holidays, schools – I had a helper. Bette (his wife) was my biggest supporter. She took care of the home, took care of the family,” which includes two daughters.

DeGreenia was promoted to captain in 1974, and again to major two years later. He served in that rank until his retirement from the force in 1992, at age 51. It was a time of budget cuts, he said, and the department was looking for officers to leave. He volunteered, and was immediately hired as a bailiff by the Merrimack County Sheriff’s Office.

The courts had just begun to use metal detectors, and they needed security staff to run them. The machines were signs of increasingly unruly behavior, DeGreenia said.

“People were getting hurt, judges were being assaulted, firearms were working their way into the courts,” he said.

DeGreenia said the courts had undergone a change from their earlier iterations, when they were “put on a playing field that was like a church – well respected, everybody was well-behaved.”

Attendants “didn’t like some of the decisions,” he said, “but they respected the people who made them.”

That has changed, he clarified.

“Nowadays people will challenge the system,” he said.

“People want an attorney, people don’t plead guilty like they did in the old days. They want their day in court and they want a trial. I don’t fault them for that. But the old days of saying, ‘I did it, I’ll take my consequences and start over’ – nowadays it’s, ‘I don’t care if I did it. I still want my day in court.’”

Retirement will be a welcome reprieve after five decades of work, DeGreenia said. He envisions trips with Bette to Maine, projects around their home in Canterbury and time spent with their three grandchildren.

Looking back over the past five decades, DeGreenia doesn’t seem to have any question about why he chose law enforcement.

“I think it’s because you want to make sure society, that you help it, and when you get done it’s a better society,” he said. “Now, do we correct all ills? No, we don’t do that. But I hope I had a little involvement in it.”

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

I'd like to assault the people who have appointed some of our judges.

How quickly we forget. In Colebrook, NH a Judge was murdered by Carl Drega. Many Judges have been assaulted over the years throughout the USA. The fact NH has not had a sitting Judge on the bench assaulted is a testament to the great job the Security staff do and not because no one "wanted" to assault a Judge. Give the man his due, 50 years in any profession is worthy of, at the very least "Job well done".

that was not the context of his statement according to the Monitor report...the context was "The courts had just begun to use metal detectors, and they needed security staff to run them. The machines were signs of increasingly unruly behavior, DeGreenia said. “People were getting hurt, judges were being assaulted, firearms were working their way into the courts,” he said. "....Now you say.."NH has not had a sitting Judge on the bench assaulted "....which is it???

Oh really, re: " judges were being assaulted"? By who? with what? , When was that? And: where? In our outside* the courtroom? Why? and how? * The only case I've read about was the knock over the head of the former prosecutor John Eames of Grafton County on his way out of a bar late one night of years ago. For the words: When was the last time a NH judge was ruffed up? at the BING Search Engine all I could find were some articles about "Ruffed Grouse" hunting. So I replaced the ruffed up phrase with that of beat up, and found this case of the http://socyberty.com/law/crooked-judges-and-lawyers-if-you-cant-beat-them/ in Virginia on the man's divorce case there. How many tackles has Leo done over the years? Does he remember Bailiff Henry Genest of Grafton County? Old Henry saw me enter the jury room one day handing out FIJA brochures of The Fully Informed Jury Amendment (about Jury Nullification) and as usual with that of like shoot first and ask questions later, was immediately tackled by him, of me put into handcuffs and shackles and brought before that Judge from Littleton** who said of no more Freedom of Speech from me, or else! ** Peter W. Smith, http://phaneuf.tributes.com/show/The-Honorable-Peter-W.-Smith-89831414 " After law school, Peter worked for the Internal Revenue Service". Oh really? Just reading this now for the first time, and so he was on my case KNOW-ing? that I won the I.R.S. case against me in M.83-50-D for Shane Devine in 1983. Thanks to Martin J. "Red" Beckman's book when he was here running for President. With those 1/2 hour info-mercials on WMUR Channel 9 during the game show hour to get us all to meet with him at the then Highway Hotel in Concord. In Fall 1992 Smith told the County Attorney Ken Anderson then of from Plymouth to charge me with Champerty, but which was taken off the case-law books in Spring 1992 by the Adkins Plumbing & Heating case. Which Sheriff did he like the best? and least? He knows which one I liked the least, right? (;-) Of THAT Sheriff getting in my face of almost provoking an incident.

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.