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Right-To-Know Request Sheds Some Light
On Bristol Police Department Turnover

By Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — A local resident’s right-to-know request has shown that six officers have left the Bristol Police Department since March 2016. One of them has filed a lawsuit against the town, seeking additional overtime pay to cover every hour he spent at the NH Police Standards and Training Academy to gain his certification.

The town has hired three new police officers this year, bringing the number of full-time patrol officers to six, and the department has an office administrator. Selectmen placed the police chief on administrative leave in early September, but are not providing any reasons for their decision.

Paul Simard submitted seven questions to Town Administrator Nik Coates, who dismissed several of them as inappropriate for a right-to-know request. Coates did provide a list of officers and their hiring dates, indicating which ones have resigned. He also provided a summary showing the police chief’s year-to-date income.

Chief Michael Lewis earned $58,474.40 in regular pay, $8,252.53 in overtime pay, and $1,280 from special duty assignments as of Sept. 18.

Simard has long maintained that the Bristol Police Department does not need as many officers as it has, and he said the current count of six officers is the appropriate level for a town of this size.

Town officials have maintained that Bristol’s police force has to be larger because the town serves as an economic hub for the Newfound Region. People from other towns come to Bristol for employment, dining, and shopping, swelling the population beyond the residential census figures and contributing to more police calls.

Officers who have resigned, according to the information provided under the Right-To-Know law, are Megan McDevitt and Everett Knighton, in March 2016; Garrett Beck, in September 2016; Jonathan Francis, in February 2017; Thomas Seager in March 2017; and Brian Spink, in April 2017.

Some have attributed the turnover to the police chief’s management style, while others say it is the level of compensation that the town pays.

Francis filed suit in federal court last May, seeking additional money from the town to cover his time at the Police Academy, and arguing that he owed the town no money under his employment contract because unprofessional behavior by Chief Lewis and sloppy operating procedures in the department constituted a “failure to satisfy the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”

The town maintains that Francis’ employment contract stipulates that leaving before the contract period ends requires repayment of a prorated portion of the town’s investment in his certification.

The new officers that have joined the town this year are Aaron Chapple, in February; Dakota Van Tassel, in May; and Barry Tanner, in September.

3 October 2017

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