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Pepperell has been the backdrop of Police Chief Allan Davis’ career.

PEPPERELL — Police Chief Alan Davis is retiring March 12 after 35 years of police work, 20 of them as chief and all of them in Pepperell.

He actually has 31 years in the business if you count his service as a reserve officer in Dunstable in 1974 when he was a senior in the former Groton High School.

Accepted into Northeastern University’s criminal justice program the following year he also started work in Pepperell as a special reserve officer. He was appointed a full time officer in 1976, working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift while a college student.

In 1984 Davis was promoted to sergeant, advancing to chief in 1990.

“My dad (the late long-term Dunstable Chief Archer Davis) was a major influence. The police station at the time was in our home and even as a teen I rode with my dad. He used his personal vehicle, he and Jerry Simmons,” Davis recalls.

“I didn’t realize I’d stay (in Pepperell). The longer you stay the more you don’t want to leave,” he said.

While he has enjoyed all aspects of police work, Davis’ favorite duty was that when a sergeant.

“You’re one the street. It’s hands on,” he explained. “I felt I was best at that.”

“Obviously I’ve enjoyed being chief,” he added. “That’s something most people want, and I’m humbled to have been promoted at age 33. I was probably one of the youngest chiefs in the state.”

Now 53, Davis and his wife, Lisa, have two sons, Ryan, 25, a first lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps and a Massachusetts Merchant Marine Academy graduate, and Andrew, 22, a senior at Westfield State College who intends to pursue a law enforcement career.

“I’m very proud of both my boys,” Davis said.

Naturally police work has changed a lot in 35 years.

“At first you were given a badge and a gun and essentially told to stay out of trouble,” he said. “That (1975) was three or four years before the academy was formed and prior to the realization that training is key. The greatest changes have been in training and technology.”

Davis believes in the military phrase “boots on the ground.”

“The patrolman is the core of any department,” he continued. “They are on the front line dealing with issues.”

“I believe in working your way up the ladder. You learn the most that way. Of course you always think you can do the next higher position but it’s not until you do it that you understand what that person really does,” he said.

Supervisory functions and management hasn’t changed over the years in his opinion.

“I look in my officers and supervisors for those who’ll do the right thing and I’ve been fortunate personnel have been responsible and responsive,” he said. “I like to think the way officers treat residents and respond is a reflection of what I believe in.”

Davis said a chief’s job is not nine-to-five, it’s a round-the-clock commitment.

“Regardless of what’s said there’s a level of anxiety because the buck stops with the chief. If things go bad it’ll reflect on me,” he said. “I’m always in communication, even when riding my Harley. Through experience you become not as alarmed or nervous when the alarm rings.”

In his early days in the mid 1970s, Pepperell’s population was half the size it is now. The paper mill was in full operation which, Davis said, was a good thing. As outsiders moved in, the expectation for services changed.

“Obviously right now is a big responsibility. It’s a down economy with concerns about budgets and funding. We lost two positions in July. Any additional personnel I could get were through blood and sweat,” he said.

Davis said he believes in leadership by example.

“I tried to do that. There was nothing asked that I wouldn’t continue to do. I enjoy being out there. You don’t think about it much but the number of people who’s lives a cop affects is significant, whether it’s accidents or drug abuse,” he said.

Looking back over many Boards of Selectmen who appoint the chief, Davis said he “has to say my ideology and personality never clashed with selectmen. I’m not a politician. I prefer being truthful and honest. I’ve had good relations with the press.”

It will be difficult to step away.

“I’ll take it easy the first spring and summer. Work on my property and ride my Harley,” Davis said. “Then I’ll decide what I want to do. I’m still young. Hopefully with 35 years experience there are people who’d want to take advantage of what I can offer.”

“It’s time for new energy and some younger focus. This department will take a steady course,” Davis said. “I hope the impression I leave with the people and the community is positive. Honestly, I will miss people I worked with and the community.”

A retirement celebration dinner for Chief Davis to be held Saturday, April 17 at the Alpine Grove Banquet Facility on South Depot Road, Hollis, N.H. It will feature a social hour at 6 p.m. followed by a prime rib and chicken dinner at 7 p.m. Cost is $40 per person.

Tickets may be purchased via check payable to MassCop Local 288 and sent to Chief Davis Retirement Dinner, c/o MassCop Local 288, P.O. Box 92, Pepperell, MA 01463. More information may be had by e-mailing or by phoning 978-433-2424.

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