By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 13, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- Officer Tom Linane, who was the school resource officer at Hampton Academy, will be retiring from the Hampton Police Department on disability.
The 18-year veteran has been on sick leave since 2005 after he was exposed to toxic mold that was growing in his office at the school.
"It's been a tough 18 months," Linane said. "I'm doing a lot better than I was. I have great doctors that are taking care of me and I'm doing OK."
Town Manager James Barrington confirmed Linane's request to retire on disability was approved by the state.
Linane said he didn't want to comment on the injuries he suffered but it was related to the mold that was found in his office at the school.
In 2004, Linane and other employees began complaining about being sick and began to think the root of their illnesses might have to do with the building where he works.
Those concerns prompted school officials to hire Desmarais Environmental Inc., to conduct an indoor air quality test on the school after Linane was placed on medical leave.
The company's report confirmed the employee suspicions after they identified three areas of concern: temperature, carbon dioxide levels and molds that have since been taken care of by the School Department.
While the mold was mostly found in two unoccupied areas in the building, two types of mold, aspergillus versicolor and stachybotrys, were identified in Linane's office.
Stachybotrys can produce toxins that can be responsible for cold and flu symptoms and tremors.
Aspergillus versicolor can produce toxins that can cause diarrhea and upset stomach, eye, nose and throat irritation, respiratory irritation, headaches and fatigue.
According to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, prolonged exposure to both molds can cause chronic fatigue, loss of balance, irritability, memory loss and difficulty speaking.
"If it took me getting sick, to clean up that building for the kids, then I'm OK with it," Linane said.
Linane was a patrol officer when he was appointed as the first school resource officer at Hampton Academy in 1999.
"It was a tough change," Linane said. "It was a completely different ball game because you had to build relationships with the students and gain their trust. You had to get out of the mentality of working the street and moving onto the next incident."
And while it was a change, it was a job that he grew to love and excel at.
Hampton Police Jamie Sullivan said Linane had a tremendous impact on the students.
"He just had an amazing connection with the kids," Sullivan said. "There was a number of instances where parents or students would come up to me and tell me just what an outstanding job he was doing. His connection with the kids went far beyond police work and is what the SRO program is all about."
Linane said one of the secrets to his success with the kids was that he made himself always available.
"I gave out my cell phone number and was available 24 hours a day," Linane said. "I never turned down a kid who needed help. "
The job also taught him a lot about talking with his own children.
"To be honest with you, I learned more from the kids than they did from me," Linane said. "It was a great experience and I made a lot of friendships along the way."
Linane said the only positive thing to come out of what happened to him is he learned how fragile life is.