Manchester has five new police officers tonight to help battle the crime problem in New Hampshire’s biggest city. They just graduated alongside another 52 men and women who will serve communities across the state.

A proud day for William Regan Senior as he watches his son, his namesake, officially become a Manchester police officer.

“Very, very proud. He’s just a great kid. He’s worked really hard to get to where he is, and just very proud,” says William Regan, Sr.

“I wouldn’t be standing here on this stage if it weren’t for them. I can honestly, truly say that,” says Officer William Regan, Jr.

Officer William Regan Junior is one of 57 men and women graduating in the New Hampshire Police Academy’s 168th class.

Despite the excitement of the day, Regan is anxious to get off the stage and onto the job—especially in light of the recent mass shootings, including the deadly terror attacks in San Bernardino, California.

“I feel like I can speak for what I like to think is all of the Class 168, is we’re looking forward to getting out on the street,” says Officer Regan.

While he’s just getting started, Regan believes the training gives him—and his fellow officers—a strong foundation for a lifelong career of protecting and serving the Queen City.

“Policing seems to be changing. A lot of threats that people didn’t have to deal with or were not as prevalent many years ago. We hope we never come across a situation like that, but should we… we hope, we know, that we will act in the proper situation,” says Officer Regan.

“This is a very difficult job and nationally we lose a member of law enforcement almost daily. And it’s a really important reminder to everyone that we all need to work together to stay safe,” says New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan.

“We do an incredible amount of training in the Manchester Police Department. From start to finish, over 9 months of hands on training before they’re physically put in a cruiser on their own,” says Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard.

While Regan knows his parents worry for his safety, they’re all focusing less on the risk and more on the rewards.

“In terms of making someone’s day a little bit better or helping someone in some sort of way makes this profession that much more rewarding,” says Officer Regan.

A big challenge for MPD has been open police officer positions. There were 21 open and with today’s new graduates, that number is down to 16. Our recruit has graduated, but his training isn’t over, so stay tuned…

Governor Maggie Hassan comments on our series: THE RECRUIT:

THE RECRUIT: Where are they?

“These are some brave, brave individuals out there. We have brave officers in the state of New Hampshire,” says Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard.

But the Queen City’s top cop says there aren’t enough of them—at least not in his city. As we’ve shown you in our special investigation—ON THE FRONT LINES—battling the drugs and related crime in Manchester is a huge job. And, Willard says the job is even tougher when you don’t have a full force covering the city.

“Crime reduction is number one,” says Willard. He adds, “The more officers I have out there, are going to help achieve that. But I also understand that it’s going to make the streets safer for the officers. The more officers I have out there, the safer it is for each one of them because they have the backup, because they have the numbers, because they have the resources.”

Two big obstacles in maintaining a fully staffed department:

  1. Relatively high frequency of retirements. 20 police officers have retired so far this year.
  2. Filling open positions with qualified candidates.

Out of the 237 officer positions at MPD, 21 are open. Willard says finding qualified recruits—like Officer William Regan—hasn’t been easy. Of the 158 people who signed up to take the last police test in March of 2015, only 5 officers were hired.  Of the 140 people who signed up for the rest in November 2014, only 6 were hired.

Some of the challenges: People don’t clear the background checks and one-on-one interviews. MPD officers are also currently working without a contract and there’s a lot of debate and concern over pension benefits. Last but certainly not the least significant, is the rapidly deteriorating image of police officers around the country, thanks in part to all of the viral videos of violent and deadly police encounters across the country.

While these factors can make joining the police profession a tough sell, Willard shares another perspective of the career he’s enjoyed for decades.

Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard“There’s something very unique about being a copper. There’s something that you cannot replicate—what it’s like to be a police officer in America. It’s as rewarding as you’ll ever have.  It’s as exciting as you could ever imagine. It’s an opportunity, I guess to protect our freedoms and liberties here in the United States. Similar to the way our soldiers do overseas. I just see it that deeply. We are at the front lines of preserving liberties in this country, so every time you say the pledge of allegiance and you put your hand over your heart and you’re saying it, those are police officers that are making sure that your liberties are being preserved.”

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas tells me that he expects a police contract to be ironed out at the Aldermanic meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, where closed-door meetings are expected to be held late into the night. What he can’t say at this point is how many officer positions will be funded in the contract.

Willard is asking the city to add an additional 5 positions to his department, so he could hire a total of 26 officers. The Mayor’s response: “I say he needs to fill the open ones first.”

Inside the NH Police Academy and Up Close and Personal with the Parents!

“You very rarely—as a policeman—deal with somebody when they’re at their best. 99 times out of 100 you’re dealing with someone when they’re at their worst,” says Detective Aaron Brown, Street Crime Unit, Manchester Police Department.

Whether it’s combating the heroin crisis or responding to your 911 calls for help, police officers have an important and dangerous job. One of their biggest challenges—battling public perception, especially in a time when a seemingly endless stream of videos of violent or deadly encounters involving officers from around the country go viral.

“The reason why that’s news is because there are so many cops out there doing their job the right way,” says Lieutenant Paul Moller, New Hampshire Police Standards & Training.

As we continue our series THE RECRUIT, we take you inside the New Hampshire Police Academy to see what our Manchester Police Department officer-in-training is learning. Plus, we meet his parents.

For Julie and William Regan, Sr., there was never any question that their son would grow up to be a police officer.

“He would always champion the little guy or defend or back people up that might have been bullied. He’s just a good and honorable man, so I think he’s in the right field.”

William Regan Jr.—or Billy, as they call him—is part of the latest class of Manchester PD recruits to go through the police academy.

After nine tough weeks in MPD’s in-house training and another four weeks in Concord, he still has a way to go, but he’s learned a lot. That includes making his bed!

“We have to have our beds made. There’s a specific way that they want the beds to be made. [It’s about] time management, being able to get up and take care of necessary things, whether it be at home, at work. Do it efficiently and do it well. Those are some of the characteristics that we’re developing here,” says Officer Regan.

His parents appreciate that lesson.

DAD: “It’s about time!

MOM: (Laughs out loud)

DAD: “It took 24 years!”

While his parents love his enthusiasm, they do worry about his safety.

“Manchester is a very active city. So, I think on the one hand, we were thrilled because we knew he’d be busy. Obviously, the other piece of that is, oh my gosh, a lot what goes on there is hard core,” says Julie Regan.

But they like his boss Chief Nick Willard. And, as many parents will tell you, that’s a good start to a new career.

“I think to have that as your leader, to have someone who will roll up their sleeves and do the job, Billy’s not on the job yet, but I think he’d follow him into a burning building if he asked him to because I think he’s just earned that respect,” says William, Sr.

And as violent and deadly videos involving police officers challenge public perception of law enforcement as a whole, this mom and dad ask you to consider this:

“They need to make sure they’re giving these police officers a chance because they’re not just about the badge, they’re about the human being,” says Julie.

As for Billy—AKA Officer William Regan, Jr.—his goal is simple.

“I want them to be proud of what I’m doing, I know they are, it’s a big commitment and I’m up to it,” says Officer Regan.” He adds, “I hope I can do it to the best of my ability.”

The Felony Traffic Stop

They’re one of the most dangerous parts of the job for police officers. Our NH1 News Exclusive Series: The Recruit continues with a look at how the Manchester Police Department trains its new officers to keep everyone safe during a pullover.

Google “traffic stops gone bad,” and you’ll see thousands of videos and articles about violent and deadly encounters. Some of the videos are scary, to say the least. That’s why one of the most important training elements for a new officer is the felony or high-risk traffic stop.

A Louisiana veteran trooper is killed by a man inside a pickup truck stuck in a ditch. It’s the latest example of the dangers officers face everyday.

“He opened fire with a sawed off shotgun and shot that trooper in the head,” says Officer Rob Harrington. “What went through my head is that it could happen at any time, any place – you just don’t know.”

Officer Harrington is THE veteran at the Manchester Police Department. Badge #1. 31-years patrolling the streets, enforcing traffic laws, seeing it all.

“You just have to take it as it comes, really.”

He’s been stabbed and dragged …

“I’ve been hit three times. My back and neck are never going to be the same,” says Harrington.

Sometimes wondering if he’d make it home alive.

“This is New Hampshire. Everybody’s got a gun. If they don’t have a gun, they have a tire iron or a baseball bat or mace,”says Harrington.

That’s why the recruits go through intensive training.

“It’s virtually impossible to train for every single scenario,” says MPD Training Specialist Andrew Delorey. “It would be exhausting and we would never be done training.”

So the focus – in this training lesson – high-risk stops.

Recruits – including Officer William Regan – also experience what it’s like for people on the other side of the gun.

“So that you can kind of have a feeling as what that is like. You have to be able to kind of judge people’s reactions,” says Regan.

As the recruits prepare for the dangers they will face during their careers, Officer Harrington – affectionately called THE DUKE after John Wayne – offers some words of wisdom.

“Think before you act. Treat every person out there the way you’d expect to be treated if you were in their position.”

As for the frightening encounters we often see on the news across the country, Harrington says:

“It’s not Manchester. People shouldn’t fear the police. The police are here to protect people. We’re not an occupying army. Realize that you have people dedicated to what they’re doing out there.”

To give you an idea of how dangerous the job can be, check out these FBI stats. In 2013 – it’s the most recent data – there were 49,851 assaults on officers. 249 of them in New Hampshire.

Meet Officer William Regan

“It’s accountability. It’s no longer just being accountable for you, yourself, but everything you do has a chain reaction—where you could change the course of someone’s life and you really need to be aware of that.” – William Regan, Jr., THE RECRUIT

The job of a police officer is dangerous. On any given day, they can lose their life or take a life. And, with an increase in high-profile deadly police encounters across the country, the job is becoming more challenging. NH1 News gives you an exclusive, in-depth look at how New Hampshire’s largest police force is training—THE RECRUIT.

24-year-old William Regan’s living out his childhood dream—he’s a police officer in training.

“I watched Chips,” says Regan. He adds, “I know that’s way, maybe a little before my time but it’s a show about people doing the right thing and the right point in time.”

It’s only week 5 of training, but this recruit already understands some of the biggest challenges he will face the day he puts on the uniform.

“Law enforcement is under high scrutiny. Somethings are horrible, tragic events that shouldn’t happen,” says Regan. “We want to be that fixture—you don’t have to be afraid to reach out to us, to call when you need help.”

With what seems like a regular stream of deadly—or just plain shocking—caught on camera videos of police encounters from around the country going viral, Manchester Chief Nick Willard admits, today’s young recruits have to be exceptionally well trained in protecting and serving.

“I say to recruits our job is to take criminals off the street. If we take criminals off the street, people will feel safer, people will feel more secure,” says Willard.

They key—treating everyone with respect. It’s the core of community policing.

“Somebody’s a witness or a victim, somebody’s a suspect, or eventually a defendant, it’s important to me that people are always treated with a sense of dignity and fairness.”

“To be part of this organization, is to be a part of Manchester,” says Regan.

It’s just one lesson recruits learn in their training, which lasts close to a year.

It starts in MPD’s in-house training center and includes lifesaving, defensive tactics like handcuffing, pursuit and evasive driving, firing pistols and rifles—and perhaps most importantly—when not to.

“It’s accountability. It’s no longer just being accountable for you, yourself, but everything you do has a chain reaction where you could change the course of someone’s life,” says Regan.

He knows the stakes are high, but he’s confident he will help drive positive change.

“You’re a public servant, you serve the community and there’s no real good excuse for a bad day.”

We will follow Regan through his training, so you can get a clear picture of how Manchester Police Department officers are trained.

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