Hampton Police officer retires after 50 years

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By Karen Dandurant

Hampton Union, September 30, 2014

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Jack Jones and Jack Donaldson
Union president Sgt. Jack Jones, left, with Hampton police officer Jack Donaldson, right, during a ceremony honoring his service to the department. Donaldson is retiring from the force after 50 years of service. [Cheryl Senter photo]

HAMPTON — Jack Donaldson said his schedules meshed nicely, being a teacher at Winnacunnet High School and a part-time Hampton police officer, and that’s why he stayed so long.

It must have worked really well since a retirement party held for him at the 401 Tavern on Sunday celebrated his 50 years as a part-time officer, first becoming part of the force in 1964. He retired a few years ago from teaching but occasionally substitutes.

"You don't find people like him anymore," said Joe Jones, a Hampton officer and president of the Hampton Police Association. "His level of commitment for a part-time officer is tough to duplicate. He was always there, for late-night shifts, details, whatever we needed. It didn't matter if it was a beautiful day at the beach, or three degrees below zero with snow flying. He always picked up the phone."

Hampton, especially the beach area, depends on part-time special officers during the summer months.

Accepting a plaque from his colleagues, Donaldson joked that he liked "most of them."

"I wish you all well," Donaldson said. "Maybe no one in this room was born when I started. You are paid well for having fun. It is kind of fun to watch a drunk stagger down the street and walk into a pole. But, remember it always about family first. Keep that in mind. For you with little children, remember: it doesn't take long before they want the keys to the car. Enjoy them now."

Donaldson called Joseph McKitrick his wing man since they both served as part-time officers in the 1960s and early '70s. McKitrick is now the lawyer for the police union.

"I was Jack’s partner for 11 years," McKitrick said. "When we started, the part-time officers ran the station. There weren't many full-timers then. The first three years, Jack was the street sergeant, and he ran the beach. He was there in 1964, when we had the riots, kids getting drunk and out of control. There were major problems."

Donaldson said he was hit by a car during the riot.

"But the ambulance guy who came to help me got a rock in the face," Donaldson said. "He lost some teeth."

McKitrick called Donaldson the "ultimate, dedicated officer." He said his former partner has a wry sense of humor that used to confuse the kids he dealt with. "They didn’t know what to make of him and he liked to mess with them," McKitrick said. "But I can honestly say I never saw him do anything wrong. He never did anything in his own interest. It was always for the job."

"He was the model guy, the part-time officer we all want," Jones said.

One Hampton officer, Barry Newcomb, first met Donaldson as a student.

"I graduated in 1983, and he was my media teacher," Newcomb said. "He and his wife coached cheerleading, and so he had my sister, too."

Newcomb recalled a story about Donaldson, in his role as a teacher, breaking up a fight in school.

"He had one kid in a headlock and the other in an arm lock as he marched them to the principal's office," Newcomb said. "Kids were shocked until they remembered he was also a police officer."

Many things have changed over Donaldson's time on the force. He said police have a lot more resources now than he did, noting they had three radios and shared them in his early days as an officer.

"And now, every kid you deal with has a cell phone and his lawyer's number on speed dial," Donaldson said. "Luckily, our resources are right up to date, too."

Donaldson said the community has changed significantly over the past half century, for good and bad.

When he first put on his uniform, he said there were no shelters for the homeless such as Cross Roads House.

But Donaldson said the intensity of violence has escalated.

"Fights are scarier now," he said. "It used to be fists, but it's much more likely now to involve weapons. Also, we handle domestic violence much better. We do more now than we used to and that's good. A lot of police work today is like social work. You try to talk down situations. I think there are higher stress levels though."

Jones said Donaldson was a tough but compassionate police officer, adding his absence will be felt.

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