GREENLAND -- Michael Maloney wasn't one to sit at his desk. "Behind the desk was probably his least favorite place," recalled friend and colleague Carole Smith, secretary at the Greenland Police Department. So when officers with the Attorney General's Drug Task Force decided to serve a warrant at the home of suspected drug dealer Cullen Mutrie on the night of April 12, no one was surprised to see Greenland's police chief step forward to help. And when the raid went south and officers went down in a hail of gunfire, no one was surprised that Maloney was in the thick of things. After racing to the front porch and dragging one of the four wounded officers to safety, Maloney returned to his cruiser and took cover. He would have helped others, but he didn't have the chance. From a basement window, Mutrie fired at Maloney when he poked his head up over the hood. It was a fatal shot that will forever haunt this small town, where Maloney was known as a dedicated chief who always answered the call. A longtime community servant, Maloney, 48, lost his life in performance of that service, and for that, the fallen chief has been named this year's Union Leader and Sunday News New Hampshire Citizen of the Year. "Speculation about the protocols followed or not followed on that last call we will leave to others for another time. Today, we choose to honor Chief Maloney as the Union Leader and Sunday News New Hampshire Citizen of the Year for his lifetime of service to his profession and community and his selfless actions under fire on that final day," said Joseph W. McQuaid, president and Publisher of the Union Leader and Sunday News. The recognition comes six years after the newspapers collectively honored "the New Hampshire police officer'' - more than 4,000 in all - as New Hampshire Citizen of the Year for 2006. "A Manchester officer, Michael Briggs, had been gunned down that October, answering one final call before his nighttime shift was to end. We said at the time that Briggs' murder 'served to dramatically and tragically underscore the sometimes perilous work that we ask of our front-line policemen and women in the big cities and small towns of our state day in and night out throughout the year,'" McQuaid said. After Briggs' death, former Epping Police Chief Gregory Dodge noted that, "Any officer going on the street doesn't know what he's going to experience on his shift." "It is eerie that, like Officer Briggs, Chief Maloney lost his life on a last call to duty," McQuaid said. Maloney's death came eight days before he was to retire, ending a 26-year career in law enforcement that began when he was a part-time officer in Rye and North Hampton. He was later hired full time in North Hampton - where he lived for many years - and climbed the ranks to chief there before becoming Greenland's chief in 2000. Friends and family described Maloney as a humble man who never bragged about his work or looked for a pat on the back after a job well done. "He thought of himself as just a regular Joe Shmoe. He wasn't doing anything different. He was doing his job," said his widow, Peg. She said the Citizen of the Year award is a "wonderful honor" to her late husband, who never would have wanted all of the attention. "Michael would be totally shocked," she said. Greenland police Sgt. Dawn Sawyer met Maloney when he hired her for the North Hampton Police Department in 1993 while he was a sergeant there. She moved over to the Greenland Police Department in 1995 and was joined by Maloney five years later. "We had just a really, really tight group," she said. It seemed he always had his officers on his mind. If his wife was working on a Friday night, Maloney would jump in the cruiser and head to the police department. "If you were his friend, he always had your back. That's why he was there eight days from retirement. He would never ask someone to do something that he wasn't willing to do himself," Sawyer said. Greenland Town Administrator Karen Anderson knew Maloney for eight years and was always impressed by his communication skills. He would meet with her every morning when he stopped by the town offices to pick up the mail. The two would chat for 10 minutes or so about what was happening with his department and what he had planned for the day. "We both knew what was going on, and that was always very helpful. I think it really showed that he was the chief of the police department, but he understood the role of the police department for the whole town. We all worked for the very same people and didn't segregate police from fire and police from the town," Anderson said. Eight months after Chief Maloney's death, Anderson is now at a point where she can joke about things like the swear cup. All inappropriate words cost a quarter, which would be dropped into a D.A.R.E cup. Anything that started with the letter "F" cost a buck. At Christmastime, the money would be used to offset the cost of a town office luncheon. "Historically, it would be funded primarily through Chief Maloney," she said, laughing. "It was always the running joke at the Christmas luncheon. Mike would say, 'What did I buy this year?'?" The cup would usually have about $50 in it by the end of the year; this year, there was only $11. Smith, the police secretary hired by Maloney 11 years ago, described him as a "great boss" and a "great chief." He was there to back up his officers, and he was there to share time with them on the golf course when they were off duty. "He was always about in town, out on patrol. Being chief never went to his head," Smith said. Maloney handled any call that came his way. The town has no animal control officer, so the calls went to the officer on duty. More often than not, Maloney would take the calls for the skunks caught in the swimming pool filter or the litter of baby foxes living under a porch. Maloney was also a big family man who never passed up an opportunity to show off his grandson, Michael Jacob, known to most as MJ, at the police department. The chief had a considerable presence at Greenland Central School, where he would often drop by to walk the halls and talk with faculty and students alike. The staff knew him. The kids knew him. And everyone at the local variety store, Suds N Soda, knew him, too. That's where he went for his morning coffee. If residents wanted to see him, they always knew they'd probably find him there. He made people feel comfortable, friends and colleagues said. He was often seen around town wearing his Hawaiian shirts and shorts, even to budget meetings. A devoted New England Patriots fan, Maloney was also proud to wear his Vince Wilfork jersey during football season. The defensive tackle offered his condolences to the Maloney family after the shooting, and the jersey was hung on the door of the funeral home for the service. Hours after Maloney's death, Tara Laurent, who was supposed to be his replacement when he retired, was thrown into the job. She was called to the clerk's office, the blinds were pulled, and she was quietly sworn in as the new chief just as news began spreading that Maloney had died. Laurent never worked with Maloney, but she's well aware of his legacy and the shoes she has to fill. "It's always a great shadow to live in. It's always wonderful to be associated with someone who was that great at what he did," she said. Laurent was named chief under the worst of circumstances, but she kept the department running even as her officers mourned. "Getting back to business is what Chief Maloney would have wanted us to do," she said. Calling him a hero, Attorney General Michael Delaney has also praised Maloney for his actions many times. "We will never forget the courage and bravery shown by Chief Maloney and our law enforcement officers undercover on that day," Delaney said at a recent news conference. Greenland Selectman John Penacho said Maloney was always professional and courteous and never intimidating. "I always felt he was a compassionate person, and he always looked out for the best interests of the town," he said, "and he did that until the end."
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Jason Schreiber may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.