Acknowledging that he’s had “a blessed career,” Concord police Chief Joe O’Connor is retiring from the department on Dec. 22.
“You just know when it’s time to move on,” he said recently.
The 58-year-old Winchester native started as chief in 2014 after working with police departments in Dennis and Winchester, and the MBTA where he left as superintendent-in-chief.
“I’ve been blessed to be a police officer as long as I have,” he said. “It’s time for me to look at other things down the road,” he said.
Town Manager Kerry LaFleur praised the chief.
“We thank Chief O’Conor for his leadership and commitment to move the department forward in challenging times,” LaFleur wrote.
O’Connor arrived in Concord in 2014, selected by then-Town Manager Chris Whelan to “mend some fences and move the department forward,” he said.
“I am deeply grateful to former Town Manager Chris Whelan for giving me the opportunity to lead the department and serve a great community,” he said.
During his tenure, LaFleur said the department “achieved accreditation from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission for the first time and became a leader in professional policing practices.”
He put together an all-woman shift, and joined with surrounding towns to hire the services of a victim advocate through a jail diversion grant.
But the past few years have also brought challenges. O’Connor said the historic sites bring a wide array of tourists to town, including those that are drawn to Concord’s independent heritage: the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
After the murder of George Floyd in 2020 in Minneapolis, there was a protest against police brutality in Concord center, and he said people “thanked us for being able to express themselves.”
“That is the way it should be,” said O’Connor. “Those people are attracted to Concord because of the historical significance of our town.”
“It’s not a quiet job,” said O’Connor with a smile. “It’s a complex, great town and the department is well funded and well equipped to serve both the residents and tourists who come to Concord.”
LaFleur said he “leaves a strong foundation for the future, and we wish him well.”
He’d like to travel and spend more time with his wife, three grown sons and new grandchild.
“It’ll be the first Christmas in a long time that I’ll be able to do that,” he said.