For over a week this summer, the New Ipswich Police Department was a one-man show.
Former chef Tim Carpenter hired Marc Frederick, 24, as a patroller in March, but he was in the academy and was not certified until the end of August. Master patroller Wes Vollheim, who had been hired in July 2013, had briefly left the department.
This left Chef Michael Abel alone.
To prevent this from happening again, Abel, who became interim chief in June of this year and was appointed permanently in September, rebuilt the department. Abel hired Tyler Swenson in August, and he was sent to the police academy, and he hired Kelly St. Pierre as a new administrative assistant in October. Like Abel, St. Pierre previously worked for the Wilton Police Department.
Frederick was from Townsend, Mass., Where he worked in construction before deciding to change careers.
âI was applying to different police departments and what attracted me here was the staff. Chief Abel, our former chief, Chief Carpenter, and Wes, Officer Vollheim – these are really relaxed people, good people that you would like to work for and with whom you would like to work, âhe said.
Frederick said growing up in a small town eased the transition to coming to New Ipswich and understanding small town politics, being discreet, respectful and appropriate. He said the pay and benefits were similar to surrounding towns, and the biggest draw was working with experienced officers like Abel and Vollheim.
Frederick, along with the other full-time agents, works over 40 hours per week, taking care of details and overtime when possible. He patrols schools during the week, as well as high traffic centers such as the NeWest Mall, enforcing speed limits and laws, and answering calls.
âIt was awesome. I love it, “he said.” It’s different every day; in a small town you can stay busy if you want to stay busy.
The department also has two part-time officers. Patroller Jesse Hyam was hired on May 1, 2018 and was full-time before moving to part-time in November 2020 to pursue another career, Abel said. Patroller Michael Walker has been with the ministry since 1993 and will retire in January.
Swenson is the last full-time recruit to the department after completing his training at Concord.
âIt’s a 16 week residential paramilitary academy,â Swenson said. “The way it works is you get hired by a police department first, then they sponsor you and send you to the academy.”
Abel, with help from Carpenter, streamlined the hiring process this year.
âWe started off by sitting here with interviews at this table,â said Abel, referring to the kitchen in the old dentist’s office that the department rents, which is also the interview room.
Abel posted jobs on the city’s website, but saw the most responses and hires on Indeed, the online job search site.
âOur process here in New Ipswich is a little less than traditional,â he said. âWe had to speed up the process because there was so much competition. Myself and the head carpenter decided to make a series of changes to our hiring process to try to speed up the process and it works. We have the ability to make offers to the candidates we like much faster.
Traditionally, he has said that a recruiting agency publishes a notice and if 25 people apply, they invite all 25 to take a written test. As a rule, if they pass the written test, they are encouraged to take the physical test.
âThe problem is, they have to get a waiver signed by a doctor and it can take up to a month, especially right now,â Abel said. He said a potential candidate waited three weeks for a doctor’s appointment and signed up for a new primary care doctor to get a medical exam.
To speed up the hiring process, Abel forgoes the written exam when the candidate graduates from college, as do Frederick and Swenson.
Frederick has a degree in construction management with a minor in business management. He was estimator for a year and assistant project manager for a year before joining the police. Swenson graduated in political science from the University of New Hampshire.
âMy opinion is that if someone comes with a college degree, they can pass the general aptitude test,â Abel said.
It may only save a few days, but it does save time, he said.
âWe do interviews from the start rather than setting up an oral jury,â he said. “It’s more personal that way.”
Swenson looked at a few other departments and said the way New Ipswich fits into the community is a big draw to him.
âEchoing what Marc said, the most important thing that drew me here was straight away from the interview, to see the intimacy and how much this specific department is community orientedâ, a- he declared.
To foster a local presence, patrollers hang around businesses as they are about to close and engage with workers.
âI think that’s a lot in terms of opinions about us and knowing we’re available to them,â Swenson said.
After more than 10 years of policing in Wilton, Abel knew that building relationships in the community would take time.
âKnowing that I had to start over was a tough hurdle and I made that choice and I came,â he said. “After five years, I’ve built some pretty decent relationships here and I still have a long way to go to build more, but we’re working on it.”
Abel said the police force is very competitive at the moment.
“In three years, I hate to tell these guys that, but if they applied to Nashua [Police Department], they would probably start (earn $ 20,000) more than they earn now, âhe said. “Are they going to work in Nashua?” I don’t know, but the money is there.
Due to salaries and increases as he continues to rebuild the department, Abel is forecasting a 2-3% increase in his overall budget this year. After much discussion over the past few years about the lack of a professional police station, he hopes to launch a campaign to raise funds next year.
âThe budget is 100% necessary here to be effective as a police station,â said Abel. âWe want to offer the best possible quality of service and we need this budget to do so. I don’t want to see Officer Frederick or Swenson leave the building because they are not paid enough.
Abel said his goal is not only to pay his employees at a competitive rate, but also to set an example of what it feels like to appreciate people who have chosen to work in the public service in New Ipswich.