By Sloane M. Perron, Manager of Marketing Communications  

Retired Holden Police Chief David Armstrong is Senior Advisor to Criminal Justice Operations at Anna Maria College. We had an opportunity to ask him a few questions.  

What are some of the main questions Criminal Justice (CJ) students ask about the major? 

We’re in a hiring crisis right now in criminal justice, so, I look at it as an unbelievable opportunity for our students here at Anna Maria. Back in 2008 during the financial crisis, it took seven years in the process to become a police officer for some of my students. We mentored them, but the employment opportunities back then were very limited. Now we have these wide-open opportunities in criminal justice professions that allow students to become anything they want to be if they do the right things. And that’s what we’re here for – to teach students to do the right things and educate them.  

What advice do you have for CJ students as they pursue their degrees? 

I always tell students to be mindful of their actions and the way they treat others. We try to give students basic guidelines and say, do not do anything that could cost you. CJ students need to be mindful of their relationships, driving records, and social media posts. Law enforcement will look into these areas when vetting job applicants during the hiring process. We talk about tattoos, which is a hot button issue since some departments and agencies still do not allow visible tattoos. We also discuss the legalization of marijuana and as much as it’s legal in some ways, it’s not hirable in others, especially in the federal government. It’s our job to make sure students think about all these aspects of the profession. These tips are also applicable for almost all professions and background checks. They are just good guidelines in general, but it is very important in the criminal justice field because departments and the public need to be able to trust the men and women they hire. Background investigations are now the forensic for employment; they take time, because we want the right people coming into policing.  

What excites you the most about CJ and public safety careers in 2022? 

I’m excited that there are so many options for students. I came from a time when there were no jobs. I would get on the Green Line in Boston to the Kennedy building, go up to the sixth floor, and look at job postings on the wall. Thanks to the internet and the current job market, finding a career is so accessible now. I’m excited for the future of our Anna Maria students.   

What motivated you to enter the world of law enforcement? 

Wow, that goes back a long way. I came out of high school, and I was looking at the military, but post-Vietnam military would not promise you a college education and other benefits. I became a tool and die maker, and I loved it. It was a great job, but it was a little isolating. I’m active, so I was drawn to the ideas of community and being social. I was the kid that never went away. I grew up in Holden and went to Wachusett Regional High School. I then got on as a part- time officer, then I became a full-time officer, and I was lucky enough to get promoted through the ranks, advance my education, and become Chief. To me, and other people, it meant a lot that the kid who was born in Holden became the police chief. 

What was one of your proudest moments as Chief for the Holden Police Department before you retired? 

One moment that really had a significant impact on me was the 25th memorial service for the late Paxton Police Chief Robert Mortell at Anna Maria College. Chief Mortell was killed in the line of duty on February 1, 1994.  For the memorial service, I reached out to the Mortell family and some of the officers who were there when Bob was killed, along with members of the trial court. It was a nice sign off before I retired from the force, and I remembered saying to myself  ‘Okay, I’ve been through this. I’ve pulled this all together’.  

Then on my last day on the job, I had breakfast with the Life Skills kids from Wachusett at McDonald’s, and that was the perfect send-off for me.