At a panel discussion at the Westford Museum last week, Westford police Chief Tom McEnaney, retired Chief Robert Welch, and retired Sergeant Terrence Kane talked about the history of the Westford Police Department, personal experiences, and the advancements and growth of the WPD's technology and service.
“We always looked at the community as number one,” said Welch. “We provide a service to the community.”
The discussion was moderated by Ken Tebbets, whose grandfather, John Sullivan, was the first Westford police chief, holding the position from 1926 to 1962. Tebbets mentioned that all Westford police chiefs were born and raised in town.
McEnany, Welch, and Kane also offered stories of their first days on the job.
“I was 20 years old... on my first day, this was a ball,” said McEnaney. “I had three older brothers, and I'd stop every one of them every time I'd see them... I wasn't too popular around Christmas or Thanksgiving.”
All three officers, as well as Tebbets, had high praise for Chief Sullivan and Chief Joe Connell, who held the position from 1962-1994.
“My grandfather had these fundamental philosophies about taking care of people,” Tebbets said. “He really believed teenagers shouldn't go to court... he felt that was not good for anybody.”
“Chief Connell ran a really tight ship,” McEnaney recalled. “If you did something wrong, boy, you heard about it... [he] would let me know right off the bat.”
McEnany discussed at length the technological advancements the WPD has seen. “We wrote all our reports by hand on little cards,” said McEnaney. “It was only... '88 or '89 that we got computers.”
“Bob was the chief at the time we brought the first two cell phones on the job, and they were the big bag phones. It was like a suitcase that you carried, like in 'Get Smart'.”
Towards the end of the talk, they shared some stories from their experience on the force, including the thwarting of a jewelry store robbery, a young man who faced a harsh punishment from his grandfather after being brought home without charges, and the response to 9/11 and how anti-terrorism training has become a focal point.
The WPD exhibit, on display now in the upstairs portion of the museum, features a visual timeline of the department's history, old uniforms and badges, WPD-themed toys, a police call box, and other artifacts spanning the 86 years.