Neal Maciel leads State Police here
The newly named commander of the Massachusetts State Police barracks on Martha's Vineyard needs no introduction to the Island or the community. Sgt. Neal Maciel knows his beat well.
Born and raised on the Island, Sgt. Maciel graduated from the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School and has worked as an Island police officer for more than 33 years. On July 6, Sgt. Maciel officially assumed command of the State Police headquarters on Temahigan Avenue in Oak Bluffs and the contingent of State Police officers assigned to the Island.
Mr. Maciel takes over from former commander, lieutenant and now captain, Bob Moore, who has moved to the State Police Middlebury troop with responsibilities for much of southeastern Massachusetts, including the islands.
Mr. Maciel said he considers his new position a great honor for someone who began his career as a local police officer. He looks forward to doing what he has always tried to do, serve the community he has known all his life.
Mr. Maciel's Island roots extend throughout the community. His father James, since retired to Florida, was a plumber for 45 years. His mother Leona was a school teacher. The extended Maciel family is "huge and expanding by the minute."
Neal Maciel began his law enforcement career 33 years ago as a Tisbury police officer. In those days he said training was mostly on the job and there was little preparation. In a telephone conversation with The Times Tuesday he had no difficulty remembering when he first put on a uniform and gun. "That was Memorial Day weekend, 1975," he said with a laugh. "It was the scariest thing I ever did."
The decision to go into law enforcement had much to do with the influence of his high school teachers and a government course that fostered an interest in the law. Sgt. Maciel said. He graduated in 1973, unsure of the direction he would pursue. The death of a close friend in an automobile accident he said was the turning point.
Sgt. Maciel decided to change his course and answered a job ad for a summer patrolman in Tisbury. "I went down to put in for it and I didn't think I was going to get it because at the time the chief was Raymond Maciel," he said, "and I figured they weren't going to hire another Maciel, but nobody else applied."
After two years with Tisbury, he joined the Oak Bluffs department where he remained until 1985 when he moved to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. In July 1992 the State Police absorbed the Registry's enforcement division.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Sgt. Maciel says the challenges and rewards of police work in a small community are one and the same. "The pluses are everybody knows you," he said, "and the minuses are everybody knows you."
Lieutenant Maciel is married and lives in Vineyard Haven. He and his wife, Marilyn, have a 19-year-old son.
People who might not normally approach a police officer often feel comfortable speaking to him, Sgt. Maciel said, but that also means that in many ways he is always on the job, even when not in uniform. "It takes me 20 to 30 minutes sometimes just to go to the post office to get my mail," he said.
Those types of one-on-one encounters are also what helps to make his job fulfilling. "Nobody takes this job because they want to be out there to harm people," said Lieutenant Maciel. "They take the job to make a difference, to help people, and it certainly is rewarding when you do work in your own community and can see the results of your work. And people are appreciative of that."
Many newcomers to the Island are surprised to learn that in addition to six town police departments there is a State Police presence. In fact, the State Police preceded the town departments.
The command was established in 1934 and the State Police were the only police presence on the Island until the 1950s, when the towns began to organize their own departments. The State Police enforce all state laws, assist local departments, and assist the district attorney with investigations.
As station commander, Sgt. Maciel is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of State Police on the Island and filing regular reports. There are currently two year-round officers and two assigned for the summer months stationed at Oak Bluffs. Sergeant Maciel brings the complement to five.
In a prepared statement, David Procopio, a spokesman for the State Police, said Sgt. Maciel's "dedicated service to the Commonwealth has earned him the respect of his colleagues within the Department, his peers at other law enforcement agencies, and the citizens he serves. The Massachusetts State Police are confident that his training, experience, and know-ledge of the public safety issues on Martha's Vineyard will allow him to do an excellent job running the island's station."
It is sentiment that Edgartown police chief Paul Condlin shares. Years ago when Mr. Maciel worked for Oak Bluffs and Mr. Condlin was an Edgartown patrolman, both men worked the midnight shift. "We spoke to each other a lot, and backed up each other a lot," said Mr. Condlin. "Neal and I go way back."
Chief Condlin said Sgt. Maciel is very deserving of his new position and brings stability to the job. "It is an easy transition for Island law enforcement because we know Neal, we know what to expect, and he knows us and he knows how the Vineyard works and the personalities of all the towns."
Chief Condlin said the good working relationship that exists among the Island departments and State Police is not always found on the mainland. Had the State Police assigned someone from the mainland without any Island background he said there would have been an extensive learning curve.
Chief Condlin said local police often rely on State Police for assistance. "They have assets that we just can't provide being a small police department," he said.