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Bristol Police Force Nearly At Full Staffing

BRISTOL — With three new police officers sworn in last week and the search for a new chief narrowed to two candidates, the Bristol Police Department is nearly back to full staffing.

Town Administrator Nik Coates said the town received 28 resumes for the chief’s position and the search team focused on five of them — three from New Hampshire, one from Maine, and one from Massachusetts.

“They were all very different, some with lots of experience and some rising stars,” Coates said.

The candidates faced three panels as the search team sought to winnow out those who did not meet the mark.

“The prevailing thought,” said Coates, “was that we’re not going to settle on someone if they’re not the one to hire. We’re not going to hire just to hire; it needs to be a leader.”

The town has been operating without a police chief since the resignation of Michael Lewis on Oct 4 after selectmen had placed him on administrative leave on Sept. 5. Lieutenants Kris Bean and Timothy Woodward have assumed leadership of the department until a new chief is sworn in.

The chief candidates first met with a law enforcement panel that included two current police chiefs, a Grafton County law enforcement officer, and a former State Police major.

“They pushed the guys pretty hard, looking for leadership skills,” Coates said.

Next was a community panel, comprising selectmen, the fire chief, school principals and the superintendent, who focused on community policing and working with the schools, as well as emergency management and preparedness.

The candidates then met with members of the police department, who asked tough questions of their potential future leader, according to Coates. Questions ranged from opinions on tattoos and facial hair to leadership style — cop or teacher? — and whether they would be advocates for officer benefits.

The selection process for the two finalists will continue with assignments dealing with ethical questions that might arise, a five-year plan for the department, and leadership style, after which there will be a 90-minute interview with selectmen and the law enforcement community.

Meanwhile the town has filled the patrol staff openings with the hiring of Dakota Van Tassel, who has completed his certification at the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Academy; Eli Schaffner, a Bristol native who has been a patrol officer in Ashland; and Chris Carter, who has 10 years’ experience with the New Hampshire State Police, including with drug enforcement.

27 January 2018

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