Portsmouth Police Captain Janet Champlin is retiring at the end of the year and starting her own private investigation business called Black Dog Investigations, LLC.Rich Beauchesne photo
By Elizabeth Dinan
PORTSMOUTH - During the quarter century Janet Champlin has been a police officer, she's patrolled beats, made undercover drug buys, investigated child rapes, scoured death scenes, prosecuted juvenile offenders, managed a detectives division and interviewed suspects in the roles of both good cop and bad.
These days she's filling boxes with plaques and awards earned over the years, bringing them home and storing them in her basement, where they will remain. The final box leaves Friday, when the 47-year-old police captain retires and launches her own start-up company - Black Dog Investigations.
"Sniffing out the truth for you," Champlin said is the slogan for her new private investigation firm that will specialize in missing persons, internal investigations for businesses, insurance fraud, background investigations and most everything else, with the exception of criminal defense work.
"For me, personally, I couldn't cross over that line and work for the other side," she said. "I know the people I've arrested over the years are guilty, I believe in our system and that everyone is entitled to a defense, but I've also seen what defense attorneys can do to victims."
Champlin decided to be a cop in college. Not sooner, she said, because the only female police officer she'd ever seen was actress Angie Dickenson playing a cop on the television show "Police Woman."
"I never understood how she could run in four-inch heels and I still can't," said Champlin.
It was an aptitude test taken in college that revealed police work might be a good match for Champlin, who now knows that test was dead-on.
"I was 21 when I became a police officer and I haven't regretted a single day," she said. "I would do it all over again and I would do it exactly as I did it."
Since her start in Connecticut, then joining the Portsmouth Police Department in 1988, Champlin made the "purposeful decision" to work different police jobs, from patrol to juvenile prosecution, to the Attorney General's Drug Task Force, then to detective work. Along the way she also graduated from the FBI Training Academy, rose through the local ranks and exceeded her professional dreams.
"To retire as captain of the detectives bureau, for me, is a real high honor," she said. "I never dreamed that was possible."
Her philosophy throughout has been, "treat people the way you want to be treated." But don't expect thanks from the public, she said, because "you don't see much of it."
The biggest change Champlin witnessed in 25 years of police work came with the advent of the Internet.
"It changes the way we do things and it's changed what criminals do," she said. "When I started you typed up reports on a manual typewriter with carbon paper, and we had no cell phones."
Diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer last year, Champlin said the medical scare "helped me focus on what I want to do with the rest of my life."
She asked herself what she won't miss about police work and thought, "writing policies and procedures." She then thought about what she'll miss, which is "being an investigator."
"The higher up you get on the job, the further away you get from what you love," she said. "I'm going to get back to what I love."
Black Dog Investigations will launch Jan. 1, be headquartered in Kittery, Maine, and has already been established as a limited liability company (LLC) with a post office box. It will be licensed, bonded and insured, and a Web site - www.blackdoginvestigations.com - is up and running.
The biggest change, said Champlin, will be working solo after a paramilitary career.
"Any success I've had is due to the people I work for, work with, and those who work for me," she said. "I know it sounds corny, but I feel like I've lived the American dream."