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LITTLETON -- Bob Raffaelo grew up in Chelmsford then went to college but didn't really like it.
He's not much for sitting at a desk languidly flipping through books.
So Raffaelo dropped out and joined the Army Reserves as a heavy-wheel mechanic where he fell in love with the military regimentation.
He had an interest in police work going into the Army, but the lifestyle and organization he found there focused and nurtured his ambition.
"I think it gave me the drive and I thought, 'I like this,'" Raffaelo said.
He landed a job with the Police Department as a dispatcher and reserve officer then attended the Boylston Police Academy in 2001.
When he went looking for a police job he didn't go to Boston, Springfield or Lowell.
Raffaelo said he prefers the diversity of opportunities available to smalltown officers.
"It's harder to rise through the ranks but it has its attractions," he said.
In a large department like Boston, a patrolman is strictly that until slowly climbing the professional ladder, but the 10-year veteran has been a patrolman, bicycle officer, motorcycle officer, firearms instructor and armorer for Littleton.
The Board of Selectmen approved Police Chief John Kelly's recommendation to promote Raffaelo to sergeant on Oct. 14, filling the supervisor's slot that had been vacant since John Janakos voluntarily asked to be reassigned as a patrolman so he could get off the midnight shift.
"He will be our fourth and junior sergeant," Kelly told selectmen.
That means Raffaelo, who has been working the second shift from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. for about two years, is going back to the overnight shift where he worked as a patrolman much of his career.
Without a sergeant on the overnight shift, senior officers have undertaken that responsibility for several years, so Raffaelo already has supervisory experience, Kelly explained.
"Bobby has worked the last couple of yeas over 500 shifts as officer in charge," he said.
The overnight shift with its long, lonely stretches can be a grind but Raffaelo is looking forward to the night-owl hours again.
"We're a department of 16 individuals, so a sergeant on this police department is much different than a sergeant in Lowell or Lawrence or any large city," Kelly said. "They are supervisory but certainly hands-on supervisory, depending on the type of event."
Raffaelo has encountered plenty of strange and unusual things in his career, often involving animals.
When about 30 cows escaped from a Groton farm earlier this year, many of them wandered into Littleton.
"Every shift I worked I was dealing with them for three weeks straight," Raffaelo said.
Then there was the thrilling moment when he and Sgt. Lisa Bonney delivered a baby several years ago.
"You can't really plan your day to any degree," Raffaelo said.
And he can work his college classes around his school schedule. He is back in school and completing his final two courses for an associate's degree in criminal justice at Middlesex Community College, with plans of getting his bachelor's degree from UMass Lowell.
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