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Wakefield Police Department hires new officer


November 30, 2009
WAKEFIELD – The newest member of Wakefield's Police force is trading in gym barbells for a badge and a gun.

For seven years, Melanie Locke, 24, of Epping, had pursued a career in the physical fitness field. During that time, she owned a successful business in Orlando, Fla., that focused on teaching weightlifting, cardiovascular, and flexibility training to groups and individuals. But two years ago, Locke realized she wanted new challenges and that she missed her family in New Hampshire.

Since moving back, her husband, Matthew Locke, who is a police officer in Exeter, rekindled the dormant interest in law enforcement she had in high school. Locke said she wanted the job because it would be different every day and would allow her to help people.

"The profession would challenge me and help me grow," she said.

Locke's first day at work was Nov. 9. She met with other officers and drove around town with Police Chief Ken Fifield. Since her first day, she's beginning to realize what life is like as an officer in Wakefield.

"People might think it's a small town and not a lot goes on but you would be surprised how much you can find by being pro active," said Locke. "There is plenty to keep busy here."

Fifield said his department was able to hire Locke with funding from President Barack Obama's stimulus package, (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) which will pay for her position for the next three years and obligates the town to pay for a fourth year.

Just being hired as a police officer is a long process, said Fifield. It includes passing a written test, meeting physical standards, passing a psychological test, a polygraph, a medical examination, and an oral board made up of law enforcement officials. Once Locke cleared all those hurdles, she was set for field training, which will run until she starts the police academy in January. She will be at the police academy in Concord for 14 business weeks. Field training will continue upon graduation.

During field training, she's learning firsthand how to make arrests, how to write a police report, and how to conduct investigations. She should be fully trained by spring.

Learning firearms has been Locke's favorite part of field training so far. She said there is a lot to learning how to use a gun in a combat situation. Officers need to learn how to shoot in a variety of positions and how to shoot accurately even when injured, she said.

Fifield specified that an officer must be able to stand in a relaxed position then fire two shots into a target within three seconds, said Fifield.

The toughest part of the hiring process was the polygraph test said Locke. She described getting hooked up to the machine as "nerve-racking" but the test wasn't so bad once it began.

Currently, Locke is the department's only female officer and Fifield said that makes her a good asset. The police department has had female officers in the past and Fifield said he realizes that some people, such as female crime victims, feel more comfortable speaking with a female police officer. Also, in many cases female officers will pat down female suspects. However, there is training for officers to pat down suspects of the opposite sex, said Fifield.

Once she's fully trained, Locke will be a patrol officer. She will respond to emergencies and handle investigations. She will also have to work all hours of the night and day. Patrolmen stay on a particular shifts for about two months and then rotate, said Field.

"I'll like it because I'll get to see different stages of activity in the town," said Locke. "I've heard the activity of the town is quite different from the day shift to the evening shift."

Having an additional officer will be a big help for the police department, said Fifield. That added staff-power will allow the police to crack down on problems such as drunk drivers on Route 16, young drug users, and burglary of unattended seasonal residences. Before Locke was hired the department was so short handed that officers couldn't pursue Wakefield investigations that required trips out of town.

In her personal life, Locke enjoys exercising and spending time with her family and her two dogs.

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