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Marshfield police chief explains why he once ‘hated the police’

Marshfield Police Chief Phil Tavares didn’t always aspire to a career in law enforcement.

In a video posted on YouTube, Tavares shares his story of how his father died after he was beaten and arrested by police, and how that affected his own life and career.

“I didn’t always want to be a police officer; in fact, just the opposite. I hated the police, I despised them,” Tavares says in the video.

The episode involving his father, in November 1987, shaped his view of the police and prompted him to participate in protests at the police station.

“On November the 13th of 1987, my father had asked his second wife to leave the home,” Tavares says in the video. But she obtained a restraining order. “My father did not leave the home immediately as he was asking to get some things, and as a result, he was arrested. He was beaten. He was kicked in the abdomen in the face. His hair was pulled. His head was slammed off a heater. I went down the next morning to bail him out. He could not walk. He could not put his belt through the loops. He had trouble seeing.”

A few days later, Tavares says, his father started coughing and collapsed to his knees in front of his parents, saying “Help me, I can’t breathe,” and then died in their arms.

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“My dad had never been in trouble with law enforcement ever in his life before that one event,” Tavares says in the video. “It completely destroyed my entire family. My father died in his parents arms. That’s something that parents never get over. You know and I had to go the rest of my life without my father. My son doesn’t have a grandfather and it angers me.”

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Tavares took that experience and channeled his anger into something positive, setting his sights on becoming a chief of police.

“I studied very hard,” he said. “I got a master’s degree in criminal justice administration. I went on to the FBI national academy and graduated from there, and I climbed the ranks to make a difference.”

Tavares said he felt the time was right to share his story.

“I’ve been silent about this for nearly 33 years, but with the turmoil that’s going on in our nation right now, I felt it was necessary to hear from a perspective that was once anti-police and now is pro-police because I don’t think that story’s been told yet,” he says in the video.

“The vast majority of police officers are doing the right thing every day, all the time, and that’s the reason why they took the job,” he said. “They’re working nights, weekends, holidays. They’re giving up family events. They’re missing their kids sporting events. They’re going out in treacherous conditions. They’re putting their lives on the line. They’re doing it for the right reasons: to take care of people, to protect people, and to make a difference — and that’s exactly why I did it.”


Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.