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Manchester Police: Proud, and hurting

You can feel the pride that members of the Manchester Police Department have in their force, their comrades, themselves. If you happened to be there yesterday, as we were, you could also see how hurt they are right now.

They are proud and they worry what people will think of them in light of the news story elsewhere on this page, the story about one of their own being accused in a serious weekend hit-and-run incident in Bedford. They seem not only furious that one of their own could allegedly act this way; they worry that such an incident will overshadow the work they do in trying to protect the peace in a city that is not only New Hampshire's largest, but one that is trying to assimilate an ever-increasing minority and immigrant population.

Beyond that work, which probably doesn't get the credit it deserves, here are a few things you may not know.

In this city of 108,000, with a force of more than 200 officers, there were fewer than 50 citizen complaints (filed by just 39 individuals) against the police last year, with just nine substantiated.

Over the weekend, a woman who attempted suicide by jumping into the Merrimack River was saved when responding officers formed a human chain and pulled her to safety. One of the officers had rescued the same woman from the river two weeks ago.

When an officer found a disoriented elderly man in a snowbank recently and returned him to his home, the officer and the officer's son then went out and bought a new battery for the man's wheelchair. Not as sexy as the New York City photo of the cop who bought boots for a street person, but a random act of human kindness.

None of this is to say that the cops here are angels, or that they don't slip up on occasion, sometimes badly.

But the true test of such a force is its reaction when the slipup occurs.

Not just the official response from the chief, in dealing with the individual. But the real-time, human reactions of its members. One told us yesterday, "It's ripping our guts. We know what's coming (with the news story), and it hurts what people will say."

The fact that they care about their work and about the reactions of the people who pay their salaries and depend on their actions says a lot, we think.


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