MANCHESTER, NH – Manchester Police Chief Carlo Capano was born in Haverhill, Mass., 48 years ago. No newcomer to the Queen City, he is now in his 25th year on the local police force and has been chief since July, 2018. Like other law enforcement officials, he views with apprehension and alarm the riots and attacks on police that have followed the killing by a Minneapolis policeman of an unarmed, handcuffed Black American. In an interview with Manchester Ink Link, Chief Capano shared his thoughts on the ongoing turmoil, police training and standards, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Q. I know it was before your time, but do you and your officers feel like we’re back in the 1960s with all the protests, rioting and racial turmoil going on?
A. We are making history right now with the protests and riots that are going on. As far as if I feel like we are ‘back in the ’60s’, that’s difficult for me to answer. Looking back at history, it would appear that the unrest we are seeing now is certainly similar to the unrest of the ’60s, but to say it’s the same would be difficult. I’m seeing the unrest is directed at the police and that is concerning for me. We support peaceful protests, but the violence that is coming with some of these groups protesting is very concerning to me and unacceptable.
Q. What do you say to people who want to make a peaceful protest, but soon find themselves in the middle of rioting, looting, burning, etc.? Should they quit the scene as quickly as possible?
A. We saw that go up on South Willow Street when we saw things start going to the violent side. Leaving that would be my suggestion.
Q. What did you think when police in Minneapolis, under orders from the mayor, abandoned a precinct building and let it burn?
A. That’s not going to happen here.
Q. What about the demands of the Black Lives Matter Movement? Should people have to apologize for saying “All Lives Matter”?
A. I understand what they’re saying. I hear what they’re saying. I think everybody knows all lives matter. Black lives matter. I see the distinction between the two. I do understand “Black lives matter,” for sure.
No matter what that man did, it is disturbing absolutely to see a police officer strangle someone for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. The officers there with him should have intervened. It amazes me that they didn’t. If the public had intervened, (George Floyd) might still be alive. I’m surprised a civilian didn’t jump in . . . Once you put on the handcuffs, it’s over, regardless of what (the suspect) did.
Q. Was justice done in the aftermath of the terrible beating of a civilian by four off -duty policemen at the Strange Brew Tavern ten years ago? That civilian, recall, was never prosecuted for any crime or even an offense.
I was the sergeant who did the internal investigation of those officers and how officers have to conduct themselves while on (or off) duty. It could have been done better, but sometimes (the arrestee) doesn’t want to be held down . . . We teach here that the back of the head and the throat are danger areas to stay away from because that could cause death or serious injury.
Q. What about the calls for eliminating qualified immunity for police when it relates to what they do on the job?
Well, if we’re having a difficult time now in the hiring and retention of police officers, eliminating qualified immunity would make it worse. But a police officer who violates civil rights should be held accountable.
Q. Do you think it’s a good idea to have allegations of police abuse investigated by the attorney general — law enforcement investigating law enforcement? Isn’t there a natural pro-police bias there?
I know AG’s are reviewing these things. They need to be trained and educated in all the laws pertaining to what police can and can’t do. I’ve seen (the reports) go both ways.
Q. There have been a lot of assaults on police in the recent riots. Do blue lives matter?
You’re asking this of a cop? Of course blue lives matter very much. That’s a loaded question.
Q. I met you once at City Hall. You’re kind of on the short side, aren’t you?
No, I’m 6-foot-4.
A. (chuckling) No, I’m 5-foot-6.
Q. Is there a height requirement for police?
If there were, I wouldn’t be here.
Q. Anything else?
Make me sound sharp and professional.
Q. No problem. What else?
A. Make me sound tall.