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Hanover Names New Police Chief

Charlie Dennis

Charlie Dennis

Hanover — The top cop in Reidsville, N.C., has been hired as the town’s next police chief.

Charlie Dennis will take over as chief in early June, giving him time to relocate and complete New Hampshire law enforcement certification requirements.

Dennis, 50, has been the police chief in Reidsville for about 18 months. Prior to that, he was police chief in Page, Ariz., for four years.

Town Manager Julia Griffin said the seven member interview team was impressed with Dennis’ experience in community policing. Reidsville has a population of about 14,000, not much larger than Hanover’s population of about 11,000. Griffin was also impressed with Dennis’ comfortable and confident demeanor and his ability to easily interact with the public.

“Our citizens expect their police officers to be as helpful and thoughtful as possible, to be able to ask them a question on the street,” Griffin said. “We want police officers who are part of the community. You get the sense that this is a guy who can greet people on the street, enjoys talking with people and is very approachable.”

Griffin is also hopeful that Dennis will stay in Hanover awhile.

“It’s my hope that this is the place he retires from and not another stop in a career where he’ll move some more,” Griffin said.

In 2012, Dennis lost his job as the Page police chief in an unusual budget cut in which the town eliminated the police chief, fire chief, airport manager, building specialist and other department heads in a $2.4 million budget shortfall.

In the months that followed, he sent out applications across the country, including to Hartford, Vt. But when he was offered the Reidsville chief job, he took it and withdrew his application from Hartford.

“I was already interested in New England back then, but I needed a sure thing, not a possibility,” Dennis said.

Dennis was interested in moving to New England because his wife has family here. At 50, he said he is looking for a community that he can call home and eventually retire. When the position opened up in Hanover last fall, he felt he had to apply, and said he would like to stay in Hanover until the end of his career.

Dennis will replace Nick Giaccone, who retired last October following a stroke. Giaccone served 19 years as chief and had more than 40 years with the department. He went on medical leave in February 2013, and while he didn’t suffer any cognitive damage from the stroke, Giaccone lost fine motor skills in his left hand that would have made it impossible for him to return to the department.

Both Giaccone and Roger Bradley, the town’s longtime fire chief, announced their retirement last fall. Martin McMillan, who is deputy fire chief for Rochester, N.Y., was hired in March to replace Bradley and will be sworn in on Friday.

Dennis announced his resignation in Reidsville on Tuesday, and his last day will be May 23. Griffin is hoping Dennis can start in Hanover on either June 2 or 9. His annual salary will be $105,000.

Dennis has 28 years of law enforcement experience, and previously was the undersheriff for the Bonner County Sheriff’s Department in Sandpoint, Idaho, and chief deputy in the Boundary County Sheriff’s Department in Bonners Ferry, Idaho.

He oversaw a 59-member department in Reidsville and an annual budget of $4.5 million. Hanover’s police budget is $2.2 million, and the department has about 20 members, not including dispatch operators and parking enforcement personnel.

While Dennis doesn’t come from a college town, Griffin said there are small community colleges in and around Page and Reidsville. And Page is near the Glen Canyon and a Navajo reservation where alcohol is not sold. As a result, many residents in the area come to Page to drink alcohol, both Dennis and Griffin said.

“It created some real issues,” Dennis said. “There was a lot of alcohol being consumed.”

Dennis noted that he expects issues of alcohol consumption to be a challenge for him when dealing with Dartmouth College, and said he’s prepared to work with the college to address concerns.

“It’s not about spoiling someone’s fun; it’s about saving lives,” Dennis said.

The town is expected to partner with Dartmouth on many issues, Griffin said, which is why she asked Harry Kinne, director of Dartmouth’s Safety & Security Office, to be on the interview committee that helped select Dennis.

Griffin said it was important to her to find a chief who could work with the campus, and she said Kinne basically told her “this is the guy.”

He has also been involved with overhauling his department’s evidence room procedures, helping improve safety and security at elementary schools, creating neighborhood and business watch programs and anti-drug efforts.

Dennis said he doesn’t have any dramatic changes he wants to make immediately in Hanover, and said he plans on spending his first few months meeting people inside and outside the police department.

“To me, it’s about listening,” Dennis said. “Every community is a little bit different.”

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.