NORTH KINGSTOWN—For Thomas Mulligan, North Kingstown is home.
From the moment he graduated from North Kingstown High School, Mulligan wanted to be a police officer on the North Kingstown Police Department, to serve his community the same way many of his family members and friends in law enforcement had.
So, when he wasn’t accepted by the department as a bright-eyed teenager fresh from the classroom in 1984, there was, of course, disappointment, but Mulligan never let it slow him down. He considered working with other departments in other communities such as Charlestown, Hopkinton and Warwick, but North Kingstown was always the place he knew he belonged.
Now, after a 25-year career as a North Kingstown Police Officer, Mulligan is ready to assume the top job in the department of the community he’s spent most of his life serving and protecting.
Standing with his wife and two sons Monday night at the North Kingstown Town Council meeting, Mulligan was officially sworn in as Chief of the NK Police Department by Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, the latest in a long series of promotions for the longtime local officer who admits he still gets butterflies on the first day of a new job.
In a short speech Monday, Mulligan thanked his family members for their support, thanked the officers who have come before and after him for the lessons they’ve helped him learn and thanked the community he is proud to serve in “the good times, the bad times, the joyful times and, unfortunately, the sad times”.
“I’ve always said that North Kingstown is probably one of the best communities that anybody could hope to live in,” Mulligan said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s just a great community. For me to have the ability to work in a town that I love and see the people I grew up with or lived next door to or met through [working at Ryan’s] market, there’s no better job.”
Mulligan has been a member of the NKPD since 1984 but his roots in the community go much further back to the time his family moved to North Kingstown in 1976.
“I went to North Kingstown High School, graduated from North Kingstown High School, worked in many of the shops–Ryan’s, when they were still here, Wickford Package Store ... ” he said.
Mulligan’s law enforcement career began as a reserve police officer in 1984. One year later, he was a full-fledged patrolman, a job he held for 11 years.
“Typically, you get to a certain level and you realize that probably the most fun an individual can have is as a young police officer,” he said. “Unfortunately, you don’t come to realize it until after you’ve progressed to other areas. Not that those other areas are not fun, but I think that, as a police officer, that’s probably the biggest impact that you have on the public.
As much as I enjoy, certainly, the progression in administration and other areas, that patrol position is where you actually get to do quite a bit and really have an impact on the community, that one-on-one relationship with the community.”
In May, 1997, Mulligan began rising through the ranks of the NKPD, first as a detective division detective patrolman (May ’97-September ’98), then as a sergeant patrol supervisor (September ’98-October ’00).
He served as a lieutenant patrol commander from that point until April, 2002, when he was promoted to the rank of detective lieutenant (April ’02- June ’03). He served as detective lieutenant detective division commander from June, 2003-February, 2005, Captain and operations division commander from February 2005-May 2006 and Captain, Administrative Division from May 2006 to the present.
Most recently, Mulligan served as acting police chief following the retirement of Edward Charbonneau in December of last year.
“That is quite a career of service to this town,” Town Council president Elizabeth Dolan said Monday. Mulligan says he’s learned a lot from his time in the NKPD and feels the experiences he’s had have helped prepare him for his new role.
“To me, there’s always some sort of anxiety and a little uncertainty, but through the years, there’s a lot of similarities,” Mulligan said. “You like to think you have maybe a smidgen of what to expect, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty. I do not know everything and, as much as you’d like to think you’re prepared, what you hope for is that what you’ve experienced in the past will help to prepare you for tomorrow.”
Mulligan feels the biggest challenge he’ll face in his new role is finding ways to guide the police department through a rough economic climate where you have to find “inventive ways to get more out of what is available”.
In addition, he looks forward to embracing new law enforcement technology tools. But, perhaps more importantly, his goal is to build better relationships with the community and help prepare the next class of officers to take elevated positions within the department.
“Hopefully, preparing someone to fill in for me because I will not be here forever,” Mulligan said with a smile. “I’ll be there for a while, but not forever.”
Mulligan ended his speech Monday night with a promise to the officers he now commands and the community he serves. It’s a promise, he said, that will define his tenure as police chief.
“My promise to my family, to our officers and to the community is to serve you as well as you have served me through the years.”