LONDONDERRY — Law enforcement leaders from across the state and all levels of government gathered Tuesday in Londonderry to share laughs and memories of longtime police academy director Donald Vittum and thank him for his 47-year career in law enforcement.
Dozens of current and former police chiefs, county sheriffs, Department of Safety heads, current and former U.S. Attorneys, representatives from N.H. Fish and Game and lawmakers all praised Vittum for his many years of unwavering service.
Vittum served first as a Newmarket and Durham police officer in 1971, then as a state trooper who did undercover work for drug enforcement, and later as chief of two different city departments (Lebanon in 1985 and Rochester in 1991).
He’s been the director of the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council (PSTC) since 2006.
Many of those present for his retirement ceremony at the Londonderry Police Department, including many chiefs, knew Vittum as an instructor when they went to the academy.
Manchester Chief Carlo Capano said he first met Vittum in 1996 when he went to the academy.
“There are very few people who strike a chord and you remember them, and Don was one of those people,” Capano told the Union Leader.
He said he was able to get to know him better in recent months as a member of the council since the summer of 2018.
“He’s a fighter,” Capano said. “When you need someone to stand up and fight for what is right, Don Vittum is always there.”
The PSTC, New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, the New Hampshire Sheriff’s Association, the New Hampshire State Police, the Rockingham County Chiefs Association and others presented vittum with commemorative plaques and gifts to thank him for his many years of service.
“Our mission would not be successful without you,” Col. Christopher Wagner of the State Police told Vittum.
After the ceremony concluded, Wagner told the Union Leader that 47 years is a very long professional career.
“It’s an amazing testament to his dedication and service to his community and state,” he said.
“New Hampshire is proud to have the highest caliber of police officers and it all starts with standards and training,” DOS Commissioner Robert Quinn said.
He said the state’s law enforcement community is better off because of Vittum.
Chief David Cahill of the Sunapee Police Department and chairman of the PSTC said Vittum treated everyone at the academy the same.
“I really feel that Don leveled the playing field for law enforcement across the state,” Cahill said.
Chief Mark Chase of Center Harbor and the President of the N.H. Association of Chiefs of Police said it’s “an honor to be here and celebrate the retirement of someone who has contributed so much to law enforcement over the last 47 years.”
Some talked about their personal friendships with Vittum, such as Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard.
“If you know Don Vittum and you call him a friend, you got a good one,” Hilliard said.
Londonderry Chief William Hart thanked him for his years of guidance.
“I know I speak for others this room, when we faced challenges internally and had challenging decisions to make and called you for guidance, you were always there,” Hart said.
“There are no better friends to have than Don Vittum.
Manchester state Sen. Lou D’Alessandro, who spoke at the event to thank Vittum, said he’s known Vittum for years and recalls being involved in the efforts to create the PSTC and, more recently, fund it through the state’s General Fund, which he said was a “very big and important move.”
Vittum thanked the law enforcement community for their support of him and his family, and that he is honored to have worked with them over the years.
“There has never been any bigger honor in my whole life,” Vittum told the room.
“This is the greatest state in the country and I thank you all for all you do.”
Vittum received a standing ovation.
Letters from Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, Maggie Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas commending Vittum on his long career were read by surrogates.
Last year, Vittum was awarded the New Hampshire Congressional Law Enforcement Award for Career Service.
He retired effective Aug. 2.