Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 07-11-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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SMITHFIELD SCITUATE FOSTER GLOCESTER EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE & OBSERVER | JULY 11-17, 2019 SMITHFIELD 5 True blue – Retired SPD deputy chief reflects on long career It seems like Jim McVey was des- tined for a job in uniform. At 91 the retired deputy chief of the Smithfield Police Department has a memory that's as sharp as the crease in his pants. His ardor for the police work he did remains unabated. With his police scanner crackling in the background – a 60-year-old hobby – he recounts how he first became a special officer in 1950 when the town had only 9,000 peo- ple. At that time the police depart- ment consisted of exactly seven members. According to the town's website, these days there are 41 sworn offi- cers and 19 civilian employees. Back then there were three full-time men including the chief, Arthur "Buster" Gould, and four part-timers. Jim became one of them. His qualifica- tions for the work began with his military service. He had been drafted into the Army three months after he turned 18. "Two months later I was overseas," he points out. It was not long after WWII, and he was sent to join the occupation forces in Japan, where he was assigned to the Military Police. It taught him a good deal about police procedure and how to deal with offenders. When his tour of duty was over and he was discharged, he returned home to Greenville and went to Bryant College (now Bryant University) on the GI Bill. In addi- tion to the job as a part-time police- man he also had a part-time job in the post office. Ironically, in 1955 full-time positions became avail- able in each place at the same time. He had his pick, and he chose law enforcement. "At the start my mother wasn't too thrilled," he says. "She had hoped I would do something more in line with my degree, but I guess she got over that." He has never regretted his choice. "Things were a lot different in town at that time," McVey observes. "For instance, part-time officers used their own cars to patrol, and the department had three small rooms in Town Hall for their headquarters, barely enough room to turn around. It stayed that way until the early 1970s." In the course of his career Jim says he was forced to draw his gun "a few times." The incident that remains most deeply etched in his mind began late one night when there was a break-in at a TV shop operated by one Ernie Cole on Route 44 just east of where the Route 295 interchange is today. Cole was well-known in town because of his business as a purveyor of the newest phenom- enon, television sets. "He was a good guy," McVey comments. "He lived behind the store, and he heard the break-in. He shouldn't have done it, but he got out his shotgun and went to investi- gate and began chasing the intrud- ers." Jim and another officer, George Jardin, showed up soon afterward. The thieves had stolen a fast 1959 Pontiac from a nearby auto body shop and fled west toward Glocester, perhaps intending to escape into Connecticut. McVey and Jardin were in hot pursuit at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour. As they raced past the barracks in Chepachet, the state police joined the chase. Jim shot out the back window of the bolting suspects. The driver lost control of the Pontiac and mowed down two utility poles on a sharp curve near Jackson School House Road. McVey says that he and Jardin drove into the glowing cloud of dust and smoke that resulted from an electric trans- former exploding. It greatly obscured their visibility. "We thought we might plow right into them, but we were lucky." The burglars, who had committed seven break-ins that night, were not so lucky. One died a couple of days later from injuries suffered in the crash. Reflecting on the learning process he experienced as he progressed through the ranks, he observes, "When you've been on the job a while you begin to think you know it. Then you have some training and you learn a lot of things you didn't know." He explains that whenever he was training young recruits, he would tell them to listen to what people had to say before they decided how to assess the outcome of a stop. To illustrate, he offers an anecdote about how he flagged down an elderly couple while on a traffic detail. They had signaled for a right-hand turn and instead made a left across traffic. "I asked them why they had done that, and they were stunned. They had had work performed on the car, and had no idea the directional sig- nals were not operating as designed," he relates. So, he asked the man to get out to observe and had the woman engage the turn signals. It became apparent that the wires had been crossed dur- ing the repairs. Jim let them go with an admonition to get the problem fixed right away. "If you listen to people, you often can resolve a problem without a con- frontation. I don't like loud-mouthed cops," he says frankly, then revises his comment slightly. "I guess I One More Thing LAURENCE J. SASSO, JR. MCVEY See SASSO, Page 23 1968 Mineral Spring Avenue, North Providence Hours: M-F 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Lowest Prices Guaranteed On Name Brand Tires North Providence Tire & Auto Complete Auto Repair Foreign & Domestic 231-6868 Family Owned & Operated for 36 Years! $ 40 - $ 200 REBATE on 4 Select Goodyear Tires TIRE SALE

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