Londonderry police officer earns doctorate
Union Leader Correspondent
April 18. 2018 9:57PM
Londonderry police Sgt. Mike McCutcheon recently earned a doctorate in education from Nashua's Rivier University.
“I've formally defended my dissertation, so I'm now officially Dr. McCutcheon, but I get my diploma and graduate on May 12,” he said.
McCutcheon, who began his doctoral journey in 2012, focused his dissertation on the question: Do years on the police force moderate the relationship between stress on the officer and his or her emotional intelligence?
“I really focused on how emotional intelligence relates to police work,” he said. “Because, as police work changes, we're seeing you need to have higher emotional intelligence to deal with more stressful situations and not respond negatively.”
Because police officers are under the ever-increasing microscope of public scrutiny, McCutcheon said it's important to either test for emotional intelligence or put a program in place to help officers learn techniques to remain psychologically sound and better interpret the emotional signals of those they encounter in the line of duty.
To defend the topic, McCutcheon said he invested countless hours over the last six years, typically spending days off studying in a library or traveling and collecting data.
“You need to be an expert in every part of stress, police, emotional intelligence and how they all relate,” he said. “So anything that's been written in the last however many years, you need to read, familiarize yourself with it, and see if you can incorporate it into your study ... the amount of reading was tremendous.”
McCutcheon said he also leaned heavily on other officers, having 172 of them from Londonderry and other towns in New Hampshire and Massachusetts take the exam he created that helped him defend his dissertation.
“I couldn't have done it without them; I needed the data, “ he said. “So it was not a one-man show. I had a lot of support.”
It was field training work that sparked McCutcheon's passion for education, and he parlayed that experience and a master's degree into adjunct professor opportunities at Rivier University and Southern New Hampshire University, among other post-secondary education institutions.
“I've always liked teaching, and I had a lot of education on the job already in criminal justice, so I thought (a doctorate degree in) education would be a good step to bolster my resume as far as being a professional educator,” he said.
McCutcheon began teaching forensics outside the classroom as well, producing YouTube videos on crime-scene processing and similar topics.
Lynn Peavey Company, which specializes in forensic training, found McCutcheon's videos online and reached out to hire him to teach some of its courses.
From there, McCutcheon branched off into his own business, launching Forensic Education to teach police officers the ins and outs of crime-scene investigation, forensics, interviewing, and other detailed field work.
In his off time from Londonderry police work, he's traveled throughout New England and as far as California, Texas and Arizona to educate fellow officers on best practices for police work.
“I wanted to have that backing - to say I'm not just some cop that's teaching you, I also have the educational background to make sure these classes are everything you wanted and paid for,” said McCutcheon.
McCutcheon credited Londonderry's education reimbursement program for paving the path to his educational accomplishments.
“I would not have been able to do it without Londonderry police, and I'm not the only one,” he said. “We have many guys here who have their master's degree because of the education reimbursement program.”
Londonderry Police Chief William Hart said his department and the town have placed a heavy emphasis on encouraging continuing education, but said McCutcheon has led by example for many of his fellow officers.
He said his department currently has six or seven officers who have earned master's degrees, and another 10-15 who are currently pursuing a bachelor's degree.
Of course, finding the right work/education balance is important, and Hart said all the bookwork never had a negative impact on McCutcheon's police work.
“Mike is an outstanding officer and one of the informal leaders of our social media team,” said Hart. “In the last 18 months or so, he's made that part of our identity, and it was due, in large part, to his leadership and encouragement.”
Hart said McCutcheon uses the daily roll call to educate other officers, reviewing updates to certain laws and how to properly manage day-to-day police work.
“He's been very dedicated to the department and to the community,” said Hart.
Once McCutcheon decides to retire from full-time police work, he said he'll likely focus on growing his business and see which other opportunities spring from there.
“With my education and my experience as a college instructor, if a full-time professor opportunity or a dean or associate dean of a program opening came up, I'd certainly look into that, but right now, it's focusing on forensic education and seeing where the wind takes me.”For now, McCutcheon said he'll enjoy some hiking, skiing and other outdoor activities and catch up on long-delayed tasks such as installing a new shower door, but his thirst for education remains.
“There's so much I don't know, and I'm always on that journey to learn more,” he said. “Like, I'm done now, and I'm already thinking about what else I can learn.”