Police Chief opens up about resignation
Health concerns, disputes with Town Hall played into decision, Markland says
Surrounded by mementoes from his 22-year career in law enforcement, Gilford Police Chief John Markland looks toward the future with a smile as he prepares to step down from his position Friday. (Jeff Ferland) (click for larger version)
September 28, 2011After six years as Gilford Police Chief, John Markland ended his 26-year career in law enforcement with a letter of resignation to the Board of Selectmen effective Friday, Sept. 30.
Describing himself as an "open, up-front and honest guy" during an interview last week, Markland attributed his decision to leave mostly to an epiphany when his young grandson wanted to take him kayaking for Father's Day this past June.
Markland admitted that he is not really an "out-door kind of guy," and had never been in a kayak before; he agreed to the opportunity to spend time with his grandson.
"I barley fit in the thing," he laughed. "We spent the whole day out there, and I realized how much fun I had."
Markland recalled feeling relaxed for the first time in a while. He seemed to leave all the stress of police work and political issues on shore as he paddled around with his grandson.
He decided that he wanted to see his grandson graduate high school. He also feared the usual amount of stress in police work, along with the tension he felt between the police department and the town administration, might be effecting his health.
According to Markland, police officers tend to suffer heart attacks at a younger age than average.
Originally, Markland said he wanted to serve for another four years. He said his decision to resign now came about because of the deterioration he felt in the relationship between his department and the town administration.
"I want to be around for my grandson's graduation, and not compromise my integrity as police chief," said Markland, summing up his thoughts on stepping down.
Markland felt he was locked in a political game of sorts with town officials, but he admitted he was not a very politically oriented person.
"I guess we agree to disagree," he said. "We really don't see 'eye-to-eye'."
Markland said he was too honest for politics, and that the politics in Gilford were getting in the way of police duty.
"We're trying to do our best for the community, but it's tough when you're getting shots from left field," said Markland.
Explaining that one source of his conflicts with Town Hall has been changes in policies and prcedures that he felt were unnecessary, he referenced the department evaluation forms, which he said have changed multiple times in the past three years.
"We don't know whats going on," he said as a result of the many changes.
He requested someone help members of the police department decipher the new evaluation forms, but he said no aid has been given in three years.
"Maybe I didn't dance well enough," laughed Markland, alluding to the political situation as an elaborate dance. "I'm not a good dancer anyway, but you can't dance when they keep changing the tune."
Markland wanted to debunk the rumor that he was leaving because of changes to retirement policy. He said there were no changes.
According to Markland, state officials were looking into making state-wide changes to public school, fire and police personnel's retirement policies last spring but no changes were made.
He said he did not know why Selectman J. Kevin Hayes speculated that his retirement had anything to do with retirement policy. He added that the Board of Selectmen should be aware of the exact details behind any Gilford department head's decision to resign.
With Markland's departure comes an opening in the department.
Markland explained that typically, when a chief resigns, officers in the department move up in rank to fill the vacancy, and they hire a new officer to keep their adequate numbers.
Markland said that, according to a Municipal Resources town-wide evaluation in 2004, the Gilford Police Department should have 17 full-time officers to sufficiently serve the community. Since 2004, calls for service have increased, but he did not request to increase staff; though he said the increase in calls may have justified hiring an additional officer.
Markland's resignation leaves the department with 16 officers, and with recent staffing cuts in other departments, he said the last budget proposal left the department without a 17th officer. According to Markland, this was only a possibility, and he was not sure if the decision was changed, but he added that this would have a negative impact on the department's service to the community.
Even with the disagreements Markland has had with town officials from time to time, he said he did not want to be labeled as a "disgruntled employee."
As he prepares to leave, he said there was a "hang-up" on the term 'retire.' Markland said he is resigning from the police force, but not retiring altogether.
He joked there were two things he always wanted to do when he eventually left the police force — either be a greeter at Walmart or drive a NAPA truck. A friend of his, Roger Landry, owns NAPA stores in Laconia and Meredith, and offered Markland the opportunity to apply as a driver for his Meredith store. Markland took 24 hours to decide. On Friday, Sept. 9, he called a department meeting. Armed with a toy Nerf gun to lighten the mood, he informed his department of his decision to leave.
"I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn't know how tough," said Markland, recalling the difficulty he had making the announcement.
As he prepared to leave the department, he said he would miss his former colleagues. They were his "Dream-Team," he said.
"It's something special to be a police officer," said Markland proudly. "It's even better to be a Gilford police officer. These guys don't do it for their ego or the paycheck; they are in it for the community."