Sgt. Kevin Marshall Leaving NPD After Nearly 20 Years

Jason Graziadei •

For Nantucket Police Department Sgt. Kevin Marshall, the streets of the island are filled with memories. Some are good, some are bad, but there are few streets that don’t bring back a recollection of a case, a stop, or some other interaction with the community that became ingrained in his psyche.

After nearly 20 years on the island police force, Marshall has become a familiar and trusted face around Nantucket. But that time is coming to an end.

Marshall worked his final shift as a Nantucket cop Tuesday night. He is leaving the island to become a lieutenant with the North Shore Community College Campus Police Department, where he will oversee the college’s Lynn campus. The decision, he said, was bittersweet.

“Nantucket is a great community,” Marshall said. “It has done wonders for me personally and professionally. And I would put any of these officers up against any other department.”

The move will reunite him with his husband, former Nantucket High School principal John Buckey, who left the island in 2020 to become the superintendent of the Marblehead, Mass. school district. And it will allow Marshall to advance his own career in law enforcement.

"It's time," he said. "I’m taking the next step.”

His departure will leave the Nantucket Police Department with some big shoes to fill, beyond just the sergeant position. Over his two decades as an island cop, Marshall became the department’s leader when it came to addressing mental health issues in policing, substance abuse, and suicide prevention initiatives. He was the first police officer in the state to become certified with the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) International, and has worked extensively within the department and alongside numerous community groups and non-profits on suicide prevention training.

His activism in this area dates back to his first few years with the department. At the time of the suicide cluster at Nantucket High School in 2007-08, Marshall was serving as the school resource officer. He knew the children and the families involved, but it was a promise he made during that time that put him on the trajectory to become a community leader in mental health issues.

“At that time, Jenny Garneau was working for the Department of Mental Health as a suicide prevention coordinator for the county, and unfortunately she got sick and passed away,” Marshall recalled. “Before she got really sick, I had a conversation with her and she kind of convinced me that I would be a good fit for it. Not knowing how much time she actually put in and how dedicated she was, but it was kind of a promise to her that I took that over. And then it just grew from there. I realized it was very important work and it expanded to mental health. But it was Jenny Garneau that kind of twisted my arm. And I'm glad she did because I've had a good career.”

Taking on that role has been both rewarding and extremely challenging, Marshall said. As he stacked years of experience and developed relationships throughout the community, the work he was involved with on mental health and suicide inevitably became personal in many ways.

“It's even more complicated and difficult out here because if you actually absorb your work, if you actually like your job and love the community, you're going to be out in the community which means you're going to know everyone,” Marshall said. “So not only is it difficult because yes, you're dealing with a person who's in crisis or suicidal, but you know the family and you know that person. And so you understand the background as well. But it makes it even more difficult because you feel as though you made a connection back in the day, whenever that may have been, or you feel as though you've guided the family in the direction they needed, to then find out that five years later, 10 years later, something has changed. The chemicals changed in the body and they're in crisis again. And so the family really relies on you. Not just me, it's a team effort, but they rely on you because they feel as though you have all the answers and you hope you do. But that is a huge piece of the difficulty living on an island that you're a part of the community.”

Marshall knew he wanted a career in law enforcement at an early age. He recalled how he would listen to the police scanner as a youth, and if there was an accident nearby, he would go just to check it out. He quickly saw that the role of a police officer was not just chasing bad guys, but also provided opportunities to do good and help people. He jumped at his first chance to become a cop.

“​​So I started in Wareham when I was 18 years old,” Marshall recalled. “And the funny story is that the captain at the time had asked me to work a detail on the first day I started work. And I said, ‘I'm sorry sir, I can't.’ And he said ‘What do you mean you can't? You're 18. I'm telling you you're going to work.’ I said, ‘I'm sorry sir, I can't, I have a prior commitment.’ He goes, ‘Kevin, this better be good. What is it?’ I said ‘It's my high school graduation.’ So they hired me prior to even being graduated.”

After brief stints in Wareham and Marion, Mass., Marshall took a job with the Nantucket Police Department, arriving on the island in June 2003. At the time, the police chief was Randy Norris, and the deputy chief was Jack McGrady.

“I only had one interview, and I came over in November on the Gay Head,” Marshall said. “And I thought that was the only boat. I questioned it the entire way. What was I getting myself into? For the first two or three years, it was miserable for me out here. I hated it. I'd go off (island) every opportunity I got and finally something clicked in my mind and I said, ‘I'm either going to make it work or I'm not.’ And once you make that decision in your mind and you make it work and you go out into the community and you start meeting people and you start volunteering and getting yourself involved with those things, it's a wonderful community. No matter what time of the year it is. But you have to do that. You can't just sit at home and say, this is miserable. You have to change that.”

Marshall remarked on the diversity of his colleagues at the Nantucket Police Department. Being a gay man, he said, was never once an issue for him on the job.

“When I'm at work, I'm at work,” he said. “And it did concern me at first, the fact that most of the administration at the time were very old school. But never once did that become a problem. Never was an issue.”

Marshall has seen the Nantucket Police Department adapt and evolve in many ways over the years - new policies, procedures, training, and technology, for example - and he was there for the shift from the old downtown police station to the new facility on Fairgrounds Road. But for Marshall, all of that was secondary to simply doing the job of a police officer in a small community.

“At at the end of the day, you have to humanize yourself,” he said. “If you humanize yourself and respect the position and respect the person that you're dealing with, then it's going to be a win-win. There are very few people that I have arrested that I can't go back up to them later on and say, ‘Hey, sorry about that,’ and they’ll tell me ‘man, you're just doing your job.’ I don't ever want to feel like I step on a pedestal when I'm out on the street.”

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