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Laconia to name new chief of police

Union Leader Correspondent

April 19. 2017 8:46PM
The Laconia Police Commission will appoint Matt Canfield as the City's new police chief following the retirement of Chris Adams (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)

LACONIA — The Laconia Police Commission is expected to announce today that Matt Canfield, the department’s second in command, has been named to replace retiring Chief Chris Adams.

While acknowledging that he has some big shoes to fill, Canfield, who was the primary motivating force behind the department obtaining national law enforcement accreditation, said the agency is in good shape as the change in administration occurs.

In 2010, the Laconia Police Department earned professional accreditation though the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and to maintain it must comply with 446 professional standards, covering a wide-range of best practice law enforcement topics.

The accreditation fundamentally changed the way the department does business and raised the level of professionalism they expect from their ranks tenfold, said Canfield.

The shift has improved the delivery of law enforcement services in the community, and the agency is subject to surprise inspection of their files to ensure continued compliance with the standards.

“A big part of that is if a problem is identified, it lets us fix it. It is a day to day thing, not every four years. We have to make sure that we’re following those guidelines 100 percent,” Canfield said.

Canfield joined the Laconia Police Department in March 1997 as a patrolman and steadily advanced through the ranks, serving as captain since June 2012.

Canfield has been a hands-on leader and was already responsible for the preparation and fiscal control over the agency’s appropriated annual operation budget of approximately $5.5 million, as well as spearheading the training, planning and preparation for the annual Motorcycle Rally and Race Week.

“I’m excited about it. There are so many opportunities to make things better in this community and I’m happy to be part of that,” he said.

Canfield’s law enforcement career has already spanned 20 years, but his enthusiasm for the job remains high.

“I love this job through and through. I really do,” he said.

While the public’s perception of a police officer’s job may be stopping cars and arresting people, Canfield said, it is much more than that. To him the most rewarding part is the ability to affect positive change.

“To be able to make a lasting impression on someone’s life during a down time for them, or when they are experiencing a tragedy. The way you talk to someone and the way you say it matters. It can be the most rewarding and the most challenging part of the job,” he said.

He gets the most enjoyment from having the chance to interact with youth.

“Kids are just fantastic the way the look up to you and the chance to be a role model is really cool,” he said.

In high school, Canfield thought his career path would likely follow that of his father as a builder, and that he would likely pursue engineering or architecture.

But after meeting Meredith Police Officer John Egan and being invited to job shadow his interaction with elementary school students teaching drug and alcohol resistance, Canfield said, a relationship was forged.

When Egan later asked Canfield if he’d be interested in the town’s police cadet program, the chance to get paid proved to be a powerful motivator, Canfield said.

He was tasked with walking the downtown and enforcing parking regulations and in collecting launch fees at the town’s boat ramps at Hesky Park and Cattle Landing.

When it was time to head to Cattle Landing at the end of Meredith Neck he would radio dispatch and found the chance to ride with an on-duty police officer in a cruiser only served to pique his interest in law enforcement.

Soon he was riding along with the Meredith Department every Friday and Saturday night. The spring of his senior year, then Meredith Chief of Police John Curran sponsored Canfield to attend the New Hampshire Part-Time Police Academy.

He attended the academy Wednesday nights and Saturdays and Sunday. He graduated from Inter-Lakes High School in June and the police academy in July. He started working part-time for the Meredith Police Department and was soon asked if he would also interested in part-time work with the neighboring Center Harbor Department.

He later graduated from the 108th New Hampshire Police Recruit Academy and was hired as a full-time officer by the Laconia department in March 1997.

“There are a lot of challenges in policing right now across the country. I’m very fortunate to live in New Hampshire and enjoy the relationships we have with the community and citizens,” he said.

Laconia is not without its own challenges, in terms of both crime and drug issues, but Canfield believes enforcement must be bolstered with stepped up prevention efforts.

“We need to work with youth before they have a chance to try this stuff and teach them how deadly it is. And that message needs to come not only from police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel but the community as a whole,” he said.

“The bottom line is the police department is for the community. I want people to be able to call and tell us that they haven’t seen their neighbor in two days and that there is a strange vehicle in the driveway. I don’t want that wall.”

As a result of Canfield being appointed chief, other promotions in the department are anticipated. Patrolman Gary Allen will be named a sergeant. Sgt. Michael Finogle will become lieutenant and Lt. Allan Graton will advance to captain.

The department has 41 full-time sworn officers, three part-time officers and also employs four part-time civilians and 11 full-time civilians, including Prosecutor Jim Sawyer.

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