Former Chelsea Police Chief Frank Garvin passed away on Tuesday night, July 13, suddenly after a short illness.
Garvin was a tremendous police officer in Chelsea, but he was also an attorney, a professor and a celebrated member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) – appearing in almost all of the award-winning Boston movies in recent years.
Garvin was born and raised in Charlestown on the other side of the Mystic/Tobin Bridge, but came to Chelsea in 1974 as a police officer. He was a tremendous detective on the department, and rose up the ranks to become a captain in 1996. He also went to Suffolk University Law School and attained his law degree while serving on the force.
Chief Brian Kyes, who worked through the years with Garvin, said he had a style of interviewing people that was second to none.
“He was phenomenal for us and was a wealth of knowledge, especially when it came to homicide investigations,” said Kyes. “It’s not that we had a lot of homicide investigations, but Frank had a way of conducting interviews. His style was unique. He had a way about him.”
Garvin competed for the job of chief in 1998 and was a finalist, but then City Manager Guy Santagate chose Florida native Rafael Hernandez to lead the department rather than Garvin.
“Frank was an attorney and had been to the FBI Academy and had all the credentials in 1998,” said Kyes. “When Rafael left Chelsea and became the Undersecretary for Public Safety at the state, he then competed for the Chief’s job and got it. My relationship with Frank was tremendous. I was lucky enough to work close to him as a captain. I got to know him well and he instilled a lot of confidence in me and I learned a lot from him waiting in the wings.”
Garvin was Chief of Police in Chelsea from 2001-07, and it’s during that time he really immersed himself in community policing. Kyes said Garvin was a tough detective and police officer, but when he became chief he was able to do what he liked best – interact with the community and go to BBQs and build relationships in the city.
“As a police chief he was incredibly focused on community policing and building relationships with all the different groups we have in Chelsea,” he said.
Councillor Leo Robinson was one of the councillors who voted in Garvin as Chief in 2001, and said he was a great officer and a good friend.
“He was a good guy and we had a very good working relationship,” said Robinson. “Besides that, we had a friendship. He will be missed.”
Garvin left in 2007 to pursue other avenues, working at ROCA for a little while and then joining the Public Safety unit at Mass General as an investigator.
One of the more interesting turns in his life was how he caught on with Hollywood and was a member of the SAG. Many of the Boston-based movies in recent years had directors that took a liking to Garvin, and he proved to be a very solid actor.
“All of the Boston-based movies of acclaim and the Academy Award winners, Frank had a role in all of them,” said Kyes. “They definitely wanted that Irish older looking guy with grey hair and a police officer. Frank had that.”
Garvin appeared in The Town, Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone and Manchester by the Sea, among others.
“He will be missed,” said Kyes. “He had a tremendous impact on the Department, and he had a tremendous impact on our community. He’ll always remain in our hearts.”
Services for Chief Garvin are planned for next Tuesday, July 20.