Missing the beat: Easthampton Police Capt. Chris Patnode retires after 37 years

  • Easthampton Police Capt. Chris Patnode receives recognition from Pat Carnavale, a representative from Gov. Charlie Baker’s office, on July 23. EASTHAMPTON POLICE DEPARTMENT

  • Capt. Chirs Patnode, Police Chief Robert Alberti and Mayor Nicole LaChapelle at a celebration of Patnode’s retirement on July 23. SUBMITTED PHOTO/EASTHAMPTON POLICE DEPARTMENT

Staff Writer
Published: 8/3/2020 1:06:54 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Growing up here, Chris Patnode and his friends had their fair share of run-ins with town police.

So in the early 1980s, when Patnode showed up for an interview with the auxiliary police for a part-time position that didn’t pay, the late Easthampton Police Sgt. Jack Ramsey made a proposal.

“‘You’re always running from us, you’re always in trouble,’” Patnode recalled Ramsey telling him. “He said, ‘I’ll tell you what — you stay out of trouble for a year, and come back and see me.’ So I did.”

Having stayed true to his word, Patnode, now 59, said he started working for the auxiliary police and soon after became a special police officer in 1983 — marking the start of a 37-year career in law enforcement that ended July 23 with Patnode’s retirement at the rank of captain.

Patnode was celebrated in a “last call ceremony” on the day of his retirement after the swearing in of his replacement and other officers. After signing off on his radio for the final time, Patnode drove his cruiser to the Public Safety Complex where he was met by a line of police officers waiting to say goodbyes, according to Police Chief Robert Alberti.

“It was very moving — very touching,” Alberti said. “There were a lot of tears.”

Patnode said he became a full-time police officer in Easthampton in 1986, attending the police academy two years later in 1988 — the same year that 25-year-old cadet Timothy Shepard died after falling ill from harsh training. Patnode was promoted to sergeant in 1994, then to staff sergeant in 2005 and finally captain after Alberti became chief in 2016.

Although Patnode said there have been many memorable calls from his time on the force — both good and bad — he distinctly remembers being parked in the center of town on his third night as an Easthampton cop when a car flew past him down Cottage Street at 70 mph. He said he ended up chasing the car into Holyoke when it spun out near Holyoke Community College and crashed against a fence.

Although Patnode tried to block the car with his cruiser, the driver kept ramming into Patnode’s car, eventually breaking free. The driver ended up being taken into custody, and Patnode thought the police chief at the time would commend him for a job well done, just as his colleagues had.

“I got a call from my chief the following morning, and he said, ‘What are you, nuts? You’ve already been here for three days, and you already have one cruiser smashed up?’” Patnode recalled. “I was a little nervous.”

During his time at the Easthampton Police Department, Patnode said he helped start the police officer bicycle program. More recently, he and Sgt. Chad Alexander started the tradition of honoring veterans by placing banners with their photos and names on streets around the city every year. Patnode never joined the armed forces but said he wishes he had.

“I’ve always looked up to the military — it’s an honorable thing,” Patnode said. “You’re giving up a couple of years, even more of that, of your life.”

When Alberti first started at the department in the late 1990s, Patnode was the sergeant at the time and stayed as his boss for years. Alberti described Patnode as a “magician” whose “calming presence” would diffuse situations that were going awry.

Alberti said that when he became chief, it was clear Patnode should be promoted to captain, the No. 2 position in the department’s chain of command, “simply because he was the most well-respected police officer in our entire department.”

“He is the epitome of what a police officer is and should be,” Alberti said.

Not one for administrative work, Alberti said, Patnode led the operations of the department, which included running patrol shifts or other community gatherings. Patnode himself said he’s “not a guy who likes to be behind a desk,” and misses patrolling a beat.

He said he could still take part-time patrol shifts at the department, which he is considering doing. Meanwhile, he bought a place in Florida where he’s planning on going for four months out of the year beginning in January. He is also an avid hunter.

“For every cop, there is a shelf life,” Patnode said.

Other police officers were sworn in to new positions on the day of Patnode’s retirement. Lt. William Kelly was promoted to captain; Sgt. Dennis Scribner was promoted to lieutenant; Officer Tim Rogers was promoted to sergeant; Officer Rick Rogalski was promoted to detective; and Mitch Cichy and Quintin Jeffers were sworn in as officers.

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.

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