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Monday, May 7, 2012

Farewell and good luck, Chief Shippee

Charlestown Police Chief retires after 30 years on the force
By Will Collette

If you missed the Westerly Sun this past weekend, you may have missed the big news that Charlestown Police Chief Jack Shippee notified the Town Council on Friday that he intends to retire, with his last day on June 5. 

The Sun carried the news on Saturday and then ran one of their classic “In the Easy Chair” features on the Chief on Sunday. I especially liked the Sunday feature piece because the Chief’s subtle – but wicked – sense of humor really showed through.

Chief Shippee has served Charlestown for 30 years, starting as a part-time patrol officer and working up the ranks until his appointment in 2009 to replace former Chief Thomas Sharkey.

Charlestown is never of one mind on anything, and Jack Shippee is no exception. There are some people who don’t like him – Council member Lisa DiBello, for example, who is suing Chief Shippee as one of the eleven individual past and former town officials named in her lawsuit against the town, DiBello v. Charlestown.

I guess it’s unlikely that DiBello will pick Chief Shippee to be one of her Hometown Heroes (the Hometown Hero award is perhaps DiBello’s only legislative achievement as a Town Council member). And it’s unlikely that Council President Boss Tom Gentz or his henchman Deputy Dan Slattery will nominate Chief Shippee, since they need to keep DiBello happy to keep her vote in their camp and hang on to their majority.

And if Councilors Marge Frank or Gregg Avedisian try to nominate Chief Shippee as a Hometown Hero, they will probably be outvoted 3-2 as they are on most motions.

So how do we honor Chief Shippee, and honor him we should because even if you don’t like him, he has given this town good and faithful service nearly all of his adult life. And I happen to think he has been a very good chief.

Aside from his humor, what I found special about Chief Shippee was the zest he put into trying to get stuff for his officers and for the town. Last summer, I interviewed Chief Shippee and also got to take a ride in one of the Chief’s most audacious acquisitions – an honest-to-god Army surplus armored personnel carrier that he got for free.

The Chief showed me all around the station and pointed out all the various things he had managed to pick up for the benefit of the town and the police force, such as several off-road vehicles, two surplus military-grade Hummers and the boat for the harbormaster. The desk in his office was a gift from Washington Trust..

On Wednesday, there is going to be a special meeting – a workshop – of the Town Council to look at the town’s options for following through on another one of the Chief’s projects – getting red-light enforcement cameras installed at the town’s four stop lights along Route 1, at no cost to the town.

I’ll give you a preview of that meeting, with details on the bids and links so you can see them yourselves in a separate article. I think the cameras are a great idea and hope they become a practical option for Charlestown.

But why not consider naming one of these things in honor of Chief Shippee’s service? Personally, I think “The Tank” (the armored personnel carrier) is the best candidate, since he was the one who not only latched on to it, but also finangled a way to get it shipped from Indiana to Charlestown at no cost and then got it fixed up and ready for service, again at no cost. It’s a great story and I’d love to see “The Tank” renamed “The Jack.”