As a beat reporter (and Plainville resident) in the 1970s and early 1980s, I crossed paths often with former Police Chief Francis “Frank” Roche, who passed away Tuesday.
The Courant said it best when it came to his commitment, expertise and level-headed leadership in a job that included keeping the department on course, even in the toughest of times. He handled it all professionally without forgetting compassion and grace. I can’t help but remember his strength and presence of mind, and his overwhelming sadness when one of his officers, Bobby Holcomb, was killed in the line of duty.
Rest in peace and condolences to his family.
“Plainville Police Chief Francis Roche, whose tenure as chief spans two decades, served well and left high standards for his successor to meet. He is retiring next week. Chief Roche spent his entire 36-year police career in Plainville, having joined the force in 1958 as a supernumerary. A year la…ter, he was named a patrolman. He worked his way through the ranks and became chief in 1974. Before joining the force, the chief boxed professionally and once fought the All-Navy featherweight champ of Guam and of the Pacific Islands at Boston Garden. He credits the self-discipline and training of boxing with helping to develop both his police skills and his respect for others. Commanding a police force for 20 years, with the pressures of public scrutiny and management issues, is difficult. Chief Roche has overseen the tripling of his force to 30 men. He has also weathered his share of union complaints about staffing decisions and other policy matters. Active in the fight against drunken driving, Chief Roche is aptly proud of his work to promote the use of toximeters to detect alcohol levels. Chief Roche asserted himself as a leader and was assured enough to make good decisions that were sometimes unpopular. Five years ago, he took the bold step of prohibiting high-speed chases of lawbreakers. In curbing his officers’ natural inclination to step on the gas, the chief properly weighed the value of the chase against the potential for accidents and serious injuries. He has successfully fended off ill-advised efforts to reverse the pursuit rule. Plainville has been well served by Chief Roche, who has gone the distance for the police force and the town.”