Changing of the guard at MPD: Hail to the (new) chiefs

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MANCHESTER, NH – Manchester’s new Chief of Police, Nick Willard, made a bold fashion statement during Monday’s swearing-in ceremony.

“It’s important to me for you to understand the type of person I am. I’m a cop first,” said Willard, answering the question of why he chose to wear his police officer blues in deference to his dress whites and suit coat, attire normally reserved for such momentous occasions.

“I want to reflect the officers who are out there doing the job day in and day out, and they do it with such humility and with such bravery that I’m going to stand before you as one of them,” Willard said.

He was named by Mayor Ted Gatsas as successor to Chief David Mara, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

Willard’s family was seated front and center – his wife Diane and daughter Paige, his dad and sister, and his in-laws, who were all seated in the front row. And before the ceremony, he mentioned his other daughter, Rachel, who was in Chicago and unable to attend.

“She’s with me though. I have her picture here, right next to my heart,” Willard said, patting his shirt pocket.

After Sgt. Steve Mangone read Willard’s personal and career biography, which talked about his humble beginnings on Peaks Island in Maine, Willard stood at the microphone and looked down at his dad.

“We’re a long way from Peaks Island, Dad,” Willard said.

After the ceremony, Willard spoke briefly about the job ahead.

“I feel an exceptional weight on my shoulders because I understand the tremendous responsibility before me, and the expectations,” Willard said. “I don’t want to let anyone down or fail anybody.”

Mayor Gatsas performed the actual swearing in, and spoke highly of Willard, as the right leader at a time when the city needs it most.

“He’s a great warrior he’s a great servant and he’s someeone who respects every individual,” Gatsas said. “I can tell you Manchester is going to come back to it’s greatness that it once was,” as he went on to say that the police department is poised to lead the way as the city battles it’s way through the current heroin epidemic.

Gatsas reinforced his confidence in the new leadership at the top of the police department flow chart, including Willard and his newly sworn Asst. Chief, Carlo Capano.

“I have faith in both of you that you’re going to do the right thing for the city of Manchester and for the men and women of the Manchester Police force,” Gatsas said.

Police Commissioner and community activist Eva Castillo said she respected Willard’s decision to wear blue, in solidarity with his fellow officers, and believes it signals the kind of leadership Willard will demonstrate, by example.

“I hope that he will have the respect of the community, and especially our Board of Aldermen,” Castillo said. “It’s very important that we all continue to work together as a community.”

Gov. Maggie Hassan was among many state and city dignitaries who came to officially welcome Willard, and officially thank outgoing Chief David Mara for his 29 years of service.

Mara made the rounds before and after the ceremony, shaking hands and accepting well wishes from those in attendance. When someone called him Chief, Mara smiled as he extended his hand.

“Please – just call me Dave,” he said.

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About Chief Nick Willard

Asst. Chief Nick Willard, who will take over as Chief of Police on July 1.
Chief Nick Willard

Nick Willard grew up on Peaks Island in Portland, Maine, and later moved to Ipswich, Mass., where he graduated from high school.

After high school, Nick served in the U.S. Air Force as a security policeman. He graduated first in his class at the non-commissioned Officer Preparatory School, and was selected as the school’s Distinguished Graduate prior to obtaining the rank of sergeant.

After serving his four-year military commitment, Nick became a full-time certified police officer in New Hampshire, graduating from the 88th Police Academy in 1989.

He served with the Sanbornton (NH) Police Department for three years before joining the Manchester Police Department in 1992. During his tenure with MPD he has served in various capacities within the Patrol Division and as a detective and detective supervisor in the Investigative Division.

He was also one of the original members of the department’s community policing unit and bicycle patrol officers. After being promoted to Sergeant in 2002, he was assigned as a Patrol sergeant and later a Detective Sergeant. Following his promotion to Lieutenant in 2006, Nick continued his assignment within the Detective Unit, where he was eventually promoted to Captain and assigned as the Investigative Division Commander in 2011. In June of 2013 Nick was promoted to Assistant Chief of Police and has served in that capacity before being nominated for Chief of Police by Mayor Gatsas, and later confirmed by the full Board of Aldermen.

During his career with the Manchester Police Department, Nick has earned his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice and is currently completing his Bachelor’s Degree. He received his polygraph examiner certificate from the Backster School of Lie Detection and most recently attended the FBI National Academy, Session 247, where he was selected by his classmates as the class spokesperson and class president. Nick has also attended and attained certifications in a number of specialized instructional and training programs, and has presented and lectured at many colleges, police agencies and community groups over the course of his career.

Nick has twice been the recipient of the Department’s Honorable Service Award: he received one for the rescue of a 7-year-old kidnap victim, whom he resuscitated upon finding, and another in acknowledgement of his role as lead investigator in Officer Michael Briggs’ homicide investigation.

In 2008, Nick was presented with the Chief’s Achievement award for his tireless work during pretrial, trial, and sentencing phases associated with the Briggs’ homicide case, in which the perpetrator received a death sentence. In 2009, Nick was selected as an Honorable Mention for the National Association of Police Organizations Top Cop Award, acknowledging his efforts in regards to the arrest and conviction of Michael Addison for Capital Murder. Additionally, Nick is also a past recipient of the U.S. Marshals Service award for the arrest of a US Marshall top-10 fugitive.

About Asst. Chief Carlo Capano 

Asst. Chief Carlo Capano
Asst. Chief Carlo Capano

Carlo Capano has served with the Manchester Police Department for the past 19 years, previously working in West Newbury, Mass.

During his tenure with MPD he has served in the Patrol Division, working in the Bike Unit, and also working as one of the departments Field Training Officers, and a Fire Arms Instructor. In 1999 he began his work as an investigator, being assigned to the Juvenile Unit. In 2001 he was moved into the Detectives Division. He was promoted to Sergeant in 2007 and was assigned as a Patrol Supervisor on the midnight shift. In July 2008, he was reassigned to the Detectives Division as a supervisor, a position Carlo retained upon his promotion to Lieutenant in October of 2011. With his promotion to Captain, Carlo was assigned as the Commander of the Administrative Division taking on a new role in the police department.

For the past 13 years, Carlo has served as one of the department’s polygraph examiners. Carlo also served on the department’s SWAT Team as the Team leader overseeing the Teams Crisis Negotiators from 2009 to 2014. Once he was promoted to Captain, he resigned from the SWAT Team’s Crisis Negotiator Unit.

Carlo is a graduate of Pentucket Regional Senior High School in West Newbury, Mass. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Salem State College in 1996. In April of 2002, Carlo received his polygraph examiner certification from the Backster School of Lie Detection. In 2013, Carlo graduated from the Leadership Greater Manchester Program where he currently presides on the Steering Committee Board for the program, facilitating Law Enforcement Day.

Over the course of his career, Carlo has also attended and attained certification in a number of specialized instructional and training programs, also taking part as an instructor, training officers on Interviews and Interrogations.

  • In 2000, Carlo was awarded the department’s Life Saving Medal for saving an 11-day-old infant from choking to death.
  • In 2007, he was awarded the Chief’s Achievement Medal for his exemplary work and overall role in the investigation of the shooting death of Officer Michael Briggs.
  • In 2012 Carlo was awarded the Departments Honorable Service Medal for his work in a string of violent armed robberies which resulted in the arrest and conviction of three individuals.
  • Also In 2012, Carlo was also awarded the New Hampshire Congressional Medal for his work with the FBI and ATF in relation to the string of violent armed robberies.
  • In 2014 Carlo was awarded the Chief’s Achievement Medal for his leadership role creating a City wide burglary initiative that was the direct result in the reduction of burglaries in the city.

Along with the medals Carlo has earned, he has also received numerous letters of recognition and certificates of appreciation for his work as a Manchester Police Officer.

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About this Author


Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!