SALEM, N.H. — As a captain, Joel Dolan has been the highest-ranking officer in the Salem Police Department for nearly six months. Saturday, the town made his status more official with a promotion to deputy chief. 

Dolan steps into this position the day after the retirement of his predecessor, Deputy Chief Rob Morin. Morin was placed on leave in January after town officials were told he was being investigated by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office, along with former Chief Paul Donovan, Capt. Mike Wagner and Sgt. Michael Verrocchi.

Morin is currently suing the town and its employees for slander. Town officials have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit, which they have yet to do as of press time.

Since December, former Andover police Chief Brian Pattullo has been leading the department, first as a civilian administrator and now as the administrative police chief for the department. Pattullo does not have policing powers in New Hampshire, so he cannot do direct police work.

Instead, Pattullo has relied on Dolan, who he praised for his leadership. 

“Joel has been doing a great job taking the reins,” Pattullo said. “It was a logical transition to promote him.”

Dolan, a second-generation police officer, grew up and attended college in Lowell. Currently he lives in Salem with his wife and children.

He began his career in law enforcement as a dispatcher in 1993. He got his first full-time police officer position a year later in Conway, and then went to Portland, Maine in 1997. Dolan returned to New Hampshire in 2003 with a full-time position as a patrolman in Salem.

“He’s been the officer-in-charge, and has worked for the Police Department for a long period of time,” Town Manager Chris Dillon said. “He obviously knows what he is doing as he has risen through the ranks, and he received a great recommendation from Pattullo. We had a conversation and decided he was the right fit.”

 

Dolan has long enjoyed his work within the department, he said. His favorite memories from working in law enforcement are from when he was promoted to sergeant in the community services unit.

“It was great to be in not such a reactive position,” he explained, talking about the community policing approach that was important to the position. The sense of community in Salem is strong, he said.

Since taking charge in January, it’s been a learning curve for Dolan, he said.

He wants to “keep the place together and move forward,” he said. “And continue to make Salem the best Police Department in the area.”

With the construction of Tuscan Village, Dolan said that the department needs to continue to increase staff, so that they can increase services and keep staff on the street.

“His institutional knowledge of the men and women who work here, along with the town, is what’s needed now," Pattullo said.

The department is still searching for a new chief, according to Pattullo.