A Life: Peter Giese: ‘If he could help, he would'


Valley News Columnist

Published: 05-15-2023 4:57 PM

ENFIELD — During his 27 years as the town’s police chief, Peter Giese took mentoring Enfield officers to a new level. He made sure they dotted every I and crossed all Ts — literally.

Giese checked officers’ investigative reports and court affidavits for grammar, spelling and punctuation. He circled mistakes in red ink before handing the paperwork back to the author.

“It wasn’t like he was grading us, but if there were a lot of red marks, you knew that you had to rip it up and start over,” said Dick Crate, who joined Enfield’s police department as a 19-year-old in 1988.

Giese was a teacher at heart, occasionally filling in as a substitute at Indian River School, where Enfield sends its middle schoolers.

Giese also made a habit of looking over traffic tickets that officers had issued to make sure protocols were followed.

Crate, who grew up in Enfield, hadn’t been a cop for long when a speeding ticket that he’d issued caught Giese’s eye. The motorist was a suspected drug dealer, but without probable cause the most Crate could do was to ticket the guy for driving slightly over the speed limit.

The chief sat Crate down in what could be described as a teaching moment “This ticket really isn’t justified,” Giese said. “It’s not the way we operate. Whatever we do has to be legitimate.”

Giese had Crate meet with the driver and reduce the ticket to a written warning. “The chief wanted (the motorist) to think it was my idea,” Crate said.

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For young officers, Giese was more than a boss. “He was a teacher who led by example,” said Crate, who followed Giese as chief of the seven-officer department.

Upon retiring in 2005, Giese and his wife, Connie, made their home in Sierra Vista, Ariz., Giese died Feb. 16, after suffering a heart attack. He was 84.

Although Giese hadn’t been a full-time Upper Valley resident for nearly 18 years, his presence was still felt in the law enforcement community.

Roy Holland, Enfield’s current chief, kept Giese’s phone number handy. He called Giese every couple of months, seeking advice on everything from personnel matters to handling the politics of small-town policing, particularly at budget time.

“He was always interested in hearing how things were going,” Holland said. “If he could help, he would.”

The town’s police station bears his name, although there’s a good chance if the sign on the front of building simply read “Chief,” folks in Enfield would know who it was honoring.

“That’s how people knew him.” Crate said. “He was ‘Chief.’ I could have never called him anything else.”

Shortly after joining the Enfield department in the early 2000s, Holland arrested a female motorist for driving while intoxicated. Her husband, who was in the passenger’s seat, also appeared to have been drinking heavily.

The next day when Holland reported to the police station, the couple was in Giese’s office. They accused Holland of stealing a $20,000 ring from their car trunk.

After patiently listening to their story, Giese informed the couple in no uncertain terms that they should leave. And don’t come back without a lawyer, he added for good measure.

“I knew they were lying,” Giese told Holland, “the moment they said, ‘We’ll forget about the ring, if you drop the charge.’ ”

Giese handled a lot of complaints — most police chiefs do. But people who questioned his officers’ character had better have proof.

“The most important thing a law enforcement office has is integrity,” Giese told Holland during his job interview more than 20 years ago.

Giese, who grew up in Wisconsin and earned a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University in Boston, was a 20-year Army veteran. He saw combat duty in Vietnam, where he headed up an intelligence unit.

Giese was a colorful storyteller with a gift of gab, but he “didn’t talk a whole lot about what happened (in the war),” said Crate, who now lives in Colorado.

Giese, who retired as a master sergeant, finished his military career at Fort Devens in Massachusetts. Knowing that Giese had expressed an interest in community police work, a friend told him that Enfield was looking for a chief for its two-officer department.

After he was hired in 1978, Giese gained a reputation for not hesitating to use his arrest powers and quickly going through ticket pads. He wrote so many speeding tickets when he first came to town that residents circulated a petition to get him fired.

“I think most of it comes with age, but I’ve become a lot more tolerant and forgiving,” Giese said in a Valley News interview on the eve of his retirement. “Sometimes, we lose sight of what we’re doing. We’re not in the punishment business. Most of the people we deal with have made stupid mistakes, fueled by drugs and alcohol.”

Giese, who served a stint as president of the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police Association, started a court diversion program for juveniles in Enfield. It allows teens who have run afoul of the law to avoid being saddled with criminal records that could haunt later in life.

“The chief never stopped learning,” Crate said “He was always looking for better ways to do things.

“He was very conservative in a lot of his views, but he respected people with opposing viewpoints.”

Whenever former Grafton County Commissioner Mike Cryans, a Hanover Democrat, visited Enfield, Giese took time to show him around town, introducing him to residents they met along the way.

“He didn’t care whether you were a Democrat or a Republican,” Cryans said. “He just wanted to do the best he could for his town.”

Even if it meant dropping his trousers.

A call came into Enfield police about a dog in the Mascoma River that was struggling to get back to shore. A small crowd had gathered on the river bank, but no one knew quite what to do.

Until Giese arrived.

“The chief took off his pants, and in his tighty whities, jumped into the river to save that dog,” said Paula Rowe, the department’s now retired administrative assistant. “He didn’t care what people thought; he just did it.”

Just like he’d done in Enfield nearly 30 years earlier, Giese dove right into his new hometown in Arizona, which was 15 miles from the Mexico border.

He served meals at a soup kitchen and stocked shelves at a food pantry. He volunteered at an animal shelter.

A late February memorial service in Sierra Vista drew a crowd of about 300 people.

“Every seat was filled,” Connie Giese said. “You would have thought he was a king.”

But to the people he worked with and served in Enfield, he’ll always be remembered as the chief.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.