by Rich Rosentreter
The Tupper Lake Village Police Department recently hired two new officers and the Free Press met with one of them, Connor Hesseltine, to introduce him to the local community.
Hesseltine grew up in the North Country in Chateaugay and embraces the outdoor lifestyle. He attended SUNY Canton graduated in May 2015 earned a bachelor degree in homeland security associates in criminal justice.
“My father and I have always been outdoorsy such as hunting and fishing. Rural areas have always been appealing to me. I’ve never wanted to move to a city or anything like that. When I got the call here, I thought to myself, that’s woods, that’s lakes, and I’ve always enjoyed both,” he said.
Following his graduation from college, Hesseltine said he was hired on a government contract conducting background investigations. He then landed a position as a corrections officer in Vermont for about a year, but didn’t really enjoy all the aspects of that job and decided to pursue a job as a police officer.
“I thought this was something I’d enjoy much more and so far I have. I decided to take the exam and Tupper Lake was the one that called me,” Hesseltine said. Once that call came, he began the police academy in June and graduated in November.
When he donned the policer uniform, it was fulfilling a desire that Hesseltine traced back to his childhood.
“It started pretty much like any little kid when you see flashing lights and the uniform with a gun and all that stuff and you think about how cool it is,” he said. “Until you get older and realize just how much they actually do and the hard part. It was something that interested me and thought I’d like to be doing.”
Hesseltine said he really became serious about making law enforcement a career path while he was a high school student in about tenth or eleventh grade.
“I knew a guy who was on the U.S. Border Patrol. I did a program and that really pretty much piqued my interest in law enforcement. I am pretty family-oriented so I wanted to stay somewhere in the area. For the border patrol I would have had to go down south so being local like this could not have worked out any better,” he said.
On the job
Now that Hesseltine is on patrol in Tupper Lake, he said he enjoys working in the community and appreciates the welcoming atmosphere he has found across the village. One of the main challenges he has faced is being the new guy in town.
“So far the challenge has been going from being a civilian when I’m walking out in public to now being in a small town and everybody knows I’m a police officer. And being new to the town, I don’t know anybody here,” he said. “Also learning all the policies and procedures and all the laws, what people can or cannot do. It’s a lot to take on in such a short amount of time.”
It has worked to his advantage that Chateaugay is similar in size to Tupper Lake. Hesseltine has been to this village as a member of the opposing team when he played basketball in high school, but said he never traveled beyond the gym and McDonald’s. Now having the opportunity to patrol the area and get familiar with the Tupper Lake community, he said he has had positive experiences.
“Everybody I’ve met has been extremely nice to me. Any issues I’ve had, people have been there. I’m renting a place, and people always say ‘Hey, if you need anything, I’m sure we can help you.’ Everybody at the department has been great. They’re all willing to lend a helping hand which is nice,” he said.
Hesseltine said he plans to remain a member of the local community now that he holds a prominent position – as does his bride-to-be.
“I don’t think I ever want to work in a big city area. Whenever I’m not working I’m either hunting or fishing or doing something on the water. To leave this area is something I would not really want to do,” he said, adding that he has an additional connection to the Tri-Lake area as his fiancee is a registered nurse and just got hired at Adirondack Health. The couple plans to wed in August 2019 and make this area their home.
“So it really could not be much better. She is really supportive and her father is a retired detective for St. Lawrence County, which is also nice. There are not many people who know what it is like being married to a police officer, so her growing up like that is nice. It’s nice having support like that at home.” Hesseltine added.
Working in a small community such as Tupper Lake is something Hesseltine said he truly enjoys and said there are many aspects of the job that he appreciates.
“I think one of the major aspects of a small community is that you get to know everybody and learn about who everybody is. On one side it is nice because you get to know who the good apples are versus who the bad apples are. It makes it easier when you are not dealing with a population of a million people,” he said adding that from a daily standpoint, getting to know the community has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of his job.
Since joining the local police department, Hesseltine said he has been invited over for dinner and other social gatherings along with getting people to offer to plow his driveway.
But there are other intangibles that Hesseltine said has taken some getting used to, such as experiencing things on the job, which is not the same as merely training practices at the academy.
“There’s definitely a big difference between the academy where people are not in your face yelling at you compared to being at a traffic stop standing on the side of the road and there are cars going by and there’s a guy in the car not from the area not being pleasant. It’s tougher,” he said. “I had to learn to hold back and just say ‘Here’s your ticket and court date.’ I had to learn to let someone vent and not worry about it. I understand they’re upset because they got a ticket.”
Hesseltine then added his message to the Tupper Lake community.
“I’m happy to be here and looking forward to being a contributing member of the community and hope to be on a good note with people in this community,” he said, adding that he really appreciates people coming up to him to greet him. “Thank you to everybody for being so welcoming.”
Look for a story on the second new officer in an upcoming issue of the Free Press.