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Kensington police chief retiring after 26 years in law enforcement

Union Leader Correspondent

July 31. 2014 11:49PM
Chief Mike Sielicki of the Kensington Police Department retired from law enforcement Thursday. (MIKE LAWRENCE/Union Leader Correspondent)

Mike Sielicki’s cell phone rang repeatedly Thursday afternoon as the Kensington Police Department chief worked the final hours of a multi-decade career in New Hampshire law enforcement.

“It’s been crazy,” Sielicki said, leaning back in his chair and exhaling during a brief respite in the police department trailer across from Kensington Town Hall. “The phone hasn’t stopped ringing and the emails haven’t stopped coming.”

There likely was no way for the community-oriented, widely praised chief to go out quietly. Sielicki made a lot of friends over a career that started as a patrolman in Colebrook, where he climbed the ladder and was chief of police from 1993-1999, and then included stints as chief in Hancock and Rindge before ending in Kensington, near Exeter.

Don Vittum, director of the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council, which runs the New Hampshire Police Academy, called Sielicki one of the finest leaders he’s dealt with in more than 30 years of police work.

“It’s tragic for us in law enforcement that he’s retiring because he’s such a tremendous leader,” said Vittum, a former police chief in Rochester and Lebanon.

Vittum spoke highly about Sielicki’s ability to take on sensitive issues – such as in-state gambling and whether to legalize marijuana – over the past year, when Sielicki served as president of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police.

He yielded that position June 10 to Enfield Police Chief Dick Crate.

Vittum also praised Sielicki’s actions and coordination of multiple departments following the death of Brentwood Police Department Officer Stephen Arkell, who was shot and killed in the line of duty May 12.

“He demonstrated incredible leadership qualities during that whole ordeal,” Vittum said.

Sielicki said memorial services unfortunately are a part of every officer’s life, and his 26-year career was no exception.“It accumulates on you,” he said. “You go to a lot of funerals.” Sielicki was chief of police in Colebrook on Aug. 19, 1997, when Carl Drega shot and killed four people, including two officers, and wounded four others. Sielicki said he knew many of those people very well.

“That was the worst time of my career,” he said. “It was a devastating time personally and professionally.”

Sielicki said adjusting to a new routine, and a slower pace, will be a change.“I tell everybody, since I was 19 years old, I’ve had boots and a gun on,” said Sielicki, now 53.

Eddie Edwards, a longtime friend of Sielicki’s who was New Hampshire’s chief of liquor enforcement from 2005 to 2013, said the retiring chief has been a role model for young officers.

“I can’t think of someone who’s a better example of what New Hampshire law enforcement is all about,” Edwards said. “Most of our police departments in the state are small, and small town police chiefs have to do it all.”

In Kensington, that role now falls to acting Chief Scott Sanders, who was a sergeant until Sielicki signed off Thursday.

“He’s going to do well,” Sielicki said of Sanders, saying the former sergeant is well-liked in the community.

Sielicki said he’ll stay on with the Kensington department part-time and work shifts when he can. He’ll have another job, as well. Sielicki said he’s taken a position as chief strategy officer for Brandon-COPsync, a Massachusetts company that’s developing an emergency notification system for teachers and school staff.

The system will enable teachers to notify and communicate with 911 dispatchers and nearby police cruisers immediately with the click of an icon on a computer screen when emergencies arise.

Sielicki said schools in Stratham, Londonderry, Kensington and other communities already are wired for the system, which the company hopes to spread across the country.

“We’re rolling it out statewide over the next couple of years,” Sielicki said. “It’s a game-changer. Nothing else that we have now compares to this.”

As Sielicki retires from law enforcement, he said his son is building a career as a deputy sheriff in Florida. Sielicki said he’s spoken with his son frankly about the demands of the profession.

“Every day, you have to decide to keep going or not,” he said. “There is no more noble profession than police work. …You have to be willing and able to sacrifice your life at a moment’s notice. Not everyone can do that.”

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