Paul and Ann Tucker (front row), with their family.

HONORABLE MENSCHION: Paul Tucker

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HONORABLE MENSCHION: Paul Tucker

Paul and Ann Tucker (front row), with their family.

Salem native rose from police chief to District Attorney

Paul Tucker is the district attorney of Essex County. A native of Salem, he went to Salem State, became a Salem police officer, went to law school at the Massachusetts School of Law, and eventually rose to become the department’s police chief. Tucker served as a state representative on Beacon Hill, and in 2022, he was elected Essex County District Attorney. He leads a staff of 200, which serves 34 cities and towns. Tucker is married to Ann, whom he met at Salem High School. They have three children, six grandchildren – and three dogs.

You grew up in Salem, played basketball at Salem High, and went to Salem State. How did that influence your decision to enter law enforcement?

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be either a police officer or a teacher and coach sports. I knew that I wanted to do something in public service and certainly participating in sports and being part of a team solidified that goal as I got older. My experiences in high school and at Salem State prepared me well to be part of a wonderful community and have role models that helped me along the way. At Salem State, I majored in criminal justice, and I knew it was going to be the path I chose. My professors challenged students to succeed and their guidance and support helped inform many of the decisions that I made in my law enforcement career. I credit so many people in my life that generously gave me their time, shared their knowledge, expertise, and good advice and I try to do that for others now.

You joined the Salem Police Department as a patrol officer, and eventually worked your way up to become Salem’s chief of police. What was the most rewarding part of being a chief?

Being the police chief in Salem came with many challenges and sometimes difficult decisions that come with leading an organization of over 100 people in an environment that can be at once depressing and rewarding. From managing the department personnel and budget, to being responsible for the safety of the community and overseeing the largest events north of Boston, there was never a true day off. I will also say the rewards were many. Seeing the men and women of the department perform incredible acts of heroism and kindness in equal measure was truly gratifying. During my tenure, we created the Community Impact Unit with a specialized unit working with our unhoused population, assisting others in need that may have substance use disorder or mental health challenges. The officers in the CIU embodied the concept of community policing. We also were the first department to hire civilian social workers and work directly with our officers to get services for people instead of incarceration. We also opened and renovated an abandoned city-owned building and ran community programs like after school events, ESL classes, and teen girls’ health, among many others, all under the auspices of Salem PD. I remain very proud of that work and pleased to see that this program is still running.

You also went to law school and became an attorney. How has that helped you in law enforcement?

On my first night on law school, a very wise professor told the assembled students that we were going to learn to think like a lawyer. It was not until I was a few semesters in that I truly understood what he meant. Looking at all sides of an issue, not just in a one-dimensional way. Reading and understanding hundreds of cases in all areas of law, being able to reason and stand to advocate for one position or another. Law school was a tremendous experience for me, and I owe it to my wife not only for her support but actually getting me to think about applying. I was 38, had a very demanding job as the chief of detectives, and a young family. One night we had a conversation about how I wished I had gone to law school, and from that I applied and was accepted. It was a turning point in my career and my life. My training in law school has been a major factor in my police career, increasing my knowledge and preparing me for becoming chief nine years later. It also opened the door to having the opportunity to teach for over two decades at Salem State University and North Shore Community College, and over 12 years at Endicott College. I have had over 1,000 students, many of whom have gone on to careers in criminal justice, and I am proud when I see them in so many of these roles.

You’re married and have three children and four grandchildren, and three dogs! Can you tell us a little about your family?

I have been truly blessed with the love and support of my family. My wife Ann had a long and successful career in the banking industry, rising to senior positions at banks in Salem and Cambridge. She now has the best role as grandmother of six who adore and love their Grammy. Our son Dan is a Fordham University graduate and is now a detective sergeant with Salem PD and is an accomplished musician. He has four children ages 9, 7, 4, and 2. His wife Kelly is a lieutenant with the Lynn Police Department. Our daughter Meghan is a graduate of the University of Miami with a degree in biology and chemistry and works in the cancer research area doing groundbreaking work. She and my son-in-law Dylan, who works in accounting, have two boys ages 4 and 2. Our youngest, Shannon, is a graduate of Salem State University and Merrimack College and is a second-year teacher at Salem High School, and she also coaches adaptive and unified sports. This past July, she married Reilly Christie, the athletic director at Salem High School. Our dogs are often the most popular members of the family on social media. We recently lost one of our sweetest boxers to an illness and we now have three which keep us all busy. I like to say we have small, medium, and large. Our little guy is Rudy the French bulldog, Snooky our boxer is in the middle, and Duke the bloodhound is one of Salem’s most beloved dogs. We got him at seven weeks old and I could hold him in the palm of one hand. He grew to about 130 pounds and now at 12, he is the senior member of the brood.

How did you meet your wife, Ann?

We were both on the track team throughout our years at Salem High School, and she was one year behind me. Ann was an accomplished high jumper and despite her protests, the coaches made her do the hurdles, too. We had many mutual friends, so we got to know each other from sports and social gatherings. In some respects, it seems like so long ago that we met, and sometimes it seems time has flown by. This July we will celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary.

You also served as a state representative for Salem at the State House. Why did you want to become a legislator and how was the experience?

I enjoyed my eight years at the State House serving as Salem’s state representative. I never thought that I would run for any political office and my decision in 2014 to enter the race was a result of a few things. I had 32 years on the job at Salem PD and had been chief for over five years. I felt as though I had accomplished everything that I wanted to and wished to continue in public service in some capacity. It was a phone call from then State Representative John Keenan, who let me know that he had decided not to seek reelection, that got me thinking. I went home that afternoon and told my wife that John had called me about his stepping out of politics. I told her, ‘I think I am going to run.’ She asked me what a state rep does, and I signed her up for the campaign! As a representative, I worked on so many important issues of the day. From police and criminal justice reform to women’s reproductive health, to education reform and much more, which was extremely satisfying. The constituent services piece – especially during COVID, working on so many issues that were affecting people’s lives – really showed the necessity of having strong leaders, and I was proud to stand with some great public servants helping people through historic challenges. I was also proud that my legislative aide, Manny Cruz, succeeded me, becoming the first Afro-Latino state representative from Salem.

You visited Israel. Can you tell us about that experience?

In 2013, I traveled to Israel with the New England ADL Regional Director Robert Trestan and 13 police executives to meet military, law enforcement, political, and community leaders in what I can best describe as one of the highlights of my life. It was an experience like none other, having the honor to meet incredible people who shared so much with us, which stays with me to this day. In addition to what we learned to enhance our professional knowledge, having the opportunity to see the entire country and stand in religious and historical sites was incredibly moving. Visiting Yad Vashem, sitting down and talking to a Holocaust survivor, seeing the names and faces and stories will never be forgotten. I remember how moved I was visiting the Western Wall, the kindness of a family in Safed hosting us for a Shabbat dinner, and so much more. We saw firsthand the challenges that Israel faces every day and how brave men, and women rise to meet it every day. I talked with Superintendent Micky Rosenfeld, who is the Israel Police national spokesman to the foreign media. His duties are so complex, getting out ahead of false information and untruths that could trigger major incidents if not handled properly. I met a man at dinner who seemed very nice although a bit reserved. I later learned that he was a legendary and decorated soldier who was incredibly humble about his heroic deeds. I met a strong woman, a police officer, who spoke with us about being injured in a bus bombing and how after her long recovery, she got back on a bus and how each of the few steps to her seat felt like a mile, but she did it. Every member of our group had tears in our eyes listening to her story. These are just some of so many wonderful people we met, and my words here will not do justice to how much this trip meant to me.

You’re now the district attorney for Essex County. What are your top priorities and what’s the biggest challenge you face in this position?

When I decided to run, a Boston Globe reporter asked if I won would I be a “traditional” prosecutor. I answered that if a traditional prosecutor is simply looking to incarcerate people, that’s not me. My top priorities are having a robust juvenile diversion program, when appropriate finding alternatives to having juveniles become justice involved. I want to make sure that people with substance use disorders and mental health challenges get the services they need. I am also a big proponent of restorative justice, which when appropriate brings victims of crime together with those who have caused the harm in an attempt to repair the harm done. I expect to have a restorative justice coordinator in place and programs up and running very soon.

In Essex County, we have also had some serious crime with devastating results for victims, families, and communities. It is also my duty to hold accountable and bring justice to those who have done things to cause harm. In my office, we have a dedicated team of attorneys, support staff, victim-witness and juvenile justice coordinators who are working every day in the courts and in the community to make sure we are doing all we can to ensure justice and public safety for all.

You’re a supporter of Israel and you’ve also spoken out about the increase in antisemitism and hate speech. Why are you so dedicated to defending the oppressed?

I firmly believe that public officials and community leaders have a duty to stand up and speak out when discrimination and all forms of hate are present. I worry that as a society, many people are becoming used to the terrible words and symbols and somehow, they are being viewed as being normalized. When our Jewish community members make up less than 3 percent of the United States population but are targets of 60 percent of hate crimes, all members of society must stand together and denounce the perpetrators. We have seen instances of antisemitism in Essex County and as horrible as they have been, I have been heartened by the community response led by our clergy. Rabbi Yossi Lipsker [Chabad of the North Shore] and Rabbi Michael Ragozin [Congregation Shirat Hayam] have demonstrated strong leadership and have been the voice and comfort for so many who have been touched by this hate. I have attended events all over Essex County after these incidents, and the outpouring of strength and faith continues to inspire me. Θ

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