Interviewing Around the Shore: Remembering Chief Jesse Carmine, Crisfield PD

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The Crisfield Police Department around 1960. Officer Carmine is the 3rd man from the right.

One thing I enjoy is the opportunity to sit and talk with individuals who’ve had the opportunity to participate in important happenings in our past on the Delmarva Peninsula.

About four years ago I was on the Lower Eastern Shore gathering some information for a piece on what police work was like in the first-half of the 20th century.  My work took me to Crisfield to get some information on the police department there so on my first trip I stopped by the town hall to see if I could find some leads.  While talking to the town clerk, she mentioned Jesse W. Carmine.  Mr. Carmine, an 80-something at that time, was working as an inspector in the city’s Public Works Department.  The office staff suggested I talk with him, since he had been a policeman on the force for almost half-a-century.

They called him on the radio and it wasn’t too long before the city public works truck pulled up with Mr. Carmine behind the wheel.   After explaining my purpose, we sat and talked for a good bit.  He was born in 1921 in Crisfield and after serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II the young sailor returned home to start work as a patrolman in 1953.  Serving on the force until 1991, he had been promoted to chief in 1977.  But after retiring from law enforcement the city still needed his services so he returned as acting chief for a bit in 1997 and served as an inspector in public works for a number of years.

Chief Carmine, in such a fascinating and informative way, took me back to a time when policing was far different in Maryland and in this watermen’s town.  His stories were about 50+ years ago, a time when the city didn’t provide a police car for its officers, training standards didn’t exist across the nation, and the challenges the men faced were far different.  After we finished talking, we hopped into the city truck for an informative tour of Crisfield, a place that he knew so very well having grown up there in the decades before World War II.

I thoroughly enjoyed that summer day four years go and each time I’d return to Crisfield I’d ask about Chief Carmine.  He’d finally retired from serving the people of Crisfield the next year.  This past summer when I stopped at the city museum, I asked about him and a lady on duty there said he had passed away over the winter (January 2008).  As I pulled away from the museum, the memories of that meeting four years earlier were still very fresh in my mind.  I was so fortunate to have met Mr. Carmine and had the opportunity to learn so much about a different time and place.

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5 Responses to Interviewing Around the Shore: Remembering Chief Jesse Carmine, Crisfield PD

  1. Donna Tyler says:

    I just found the article that you wrote on November 16 about Jesse Carmine. He was my dad and he was a wonderful person. Dad passed away on January 7, 2008 and he is greatly missed. He would have enjoyed this article and i thank you for writing such a wonderful article about him. His life was his family and his town. He worked for the City most of his life and was a dedicated employee. I am sure they miss him as much as we do. I would love for this article to be printed in our local paper, The Crisfield Times, but I don’t know if you allow that. If you do, I will gladly submit it to them and cover any cost.

  2. Mike says:

    Mrs. Tyler:

    Thank you. I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with your dad that summer day a few years ago, He had lots of stories that fascinated me and he was generous with his insights and understanding of Crisfield. We sat in the city hall for a half-hour or so as I got some background material and then we jumped into a truck for a tour of the city. The tour from a man who knew his beat as police officer and his hometown so well was something I thoroughly enjoyed.

    I always wanted to follow-up again and talk with him some more, since he was so informative and pleasant, and I’d always ask about him when I came back to town, a couple of times each year.

    You’re welcome to use the piece in any way you want to, including the Crisfield paper. If you contact them, they just might print it as a column for you, without charge. They seem to do a good job with including local content and commentary inside the paper.

    Thanks again. Your dad was very helpful for me on that day. I am glad I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Carmine.

    Mike

  3. Donna Tyler says:

    Thanks so much for the nice response, Mike. I wish that you could have spent more time with my Dad. I believe you would have really gotten to know our town through the eyes of someone who truly loved Crisfield. After the holidays, I will talk to the editor at the Times and see what he says.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  4. Josh Thomas says:

    I enjoyed your article on Jesse Carmine very much. He was my brother-in-law and I have never known a more dedicated person to law enforcement. Besides his family, it was his life. He was kind but yet firm and did a great job keeping Crisfield safe. I have lived in Tennessee since 1949 but every time I visited Crisfield, I would make sure to talk to Jesse if he was available. A very interesting man. We loved him and we miss him.

  5. Mike says:

    Mr. Thomas:

    Thanks for posting. Just in the two short hours that I was fortunate to spend with him, I could see what you’re talking about. I found his experiences really interesting. I could also clearly see that the people of Crisfield were well served by a dedicated public servant

    Funny thing about the interview though. While we talked about his law enforcement experience thoroughly and he clearly described what policing was like in Crisfield, MD for almost a half-a-century, he never mentioned that he was the chief of the Crisfield Police Department. I walked away thinking that he’d served them as a supervisor of some sort, perhaps a Sgt. or LT. But I don’t think he even suggested that, it was just my impression. When I got around to looking at some town records is when it dawned on me how long he’d served as the town as its chief lawman.

    I was very fortunate to have meet Chief Carmine. You don’t find many public servants of that caliber and dedication too often.

    I do these things often, but Chief Carmine’s interview is one I’ll remember for a long time.

    Mike

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