HOOKSETT — Hooksett's acting police chief, Capt. Jon Daigle, has asked to be relieved of his duties as acting chief and return to his job as captain.
In a letter to the Hooksett Police Commission obtained by the New Hampshire Union Leader, Daigle also withdrew himself from consideration for the chief's job.
It has been nearly a year since former police chief Stephen Agrafiotis was placed on leave. Daigle has been acting chief since last September. Agrafiotis resigned Jan. 31.
“At the nonpublic meeting that took place on (Monday), I submitted a letter to the commission asking that they relieve me as acting chief and appoint someone else. I asked to be placed back in my position as captain. I have not been advised by the commission if they intend to honor my request,” Daigle said.
In his letter to the commission, he wrote, “I am disappointed in the fact that since becoming the acting chief of police in September 2011, the Hooksett Police Commission has not communicated any goals or expectations for me ... the fact that the Commission has failed to complete my evaluation due last November and has not offered any input on my performance has contributed to my decision.”
Click here to view Capt. Daigle's letter to the Hooksett Police Commission (.pdf).
Daigle also lists several goals he achieved in his role as acting chief, including holding what he called a successful open house, organizing various fundraisers and boosting morale in the department.
The Hooksett Police Commission has been meeting each month with consultants from the Public Safety Strategies Group, which presented a blistering audit of the town's police department last November. PSSG's report found the Hooksett Police Department had a poorly organized culture, low morale, a lack of trust, questionable budgets, no strategic plan, outdated policies, procedures, equipment, and record keeping, and a limited relationship with the community. The commission signed a one-year contract with the consultants, who are working to put in place a list of recommended improvements.
On Tuesday, the commission postponed a discussion of a draft of a dozen policies and procedures hammered out by a standard operating procedure, or SOP, committee. PSSG consultants found the existing Hooksett police procedures dated to the 1990s, and were inconsistent with many current practices.
Although the commission decided to wait to review the list of new SOPs, which included inspections of vehicles and equipment, the safety and security of holding cells, and department budgeting and accounting, Commissioner Clark Karolian did say it is not the board's role to change police procedures.
“Our job is to get the input that you give us and see what you guys think,” Karolian told Daigle. “We count on the expertise of the department for the SOPs.”
Daigle told the commissioners they should listen to what police have to say about policy and added he would tell fellow officers the commission is looking for their opinions and ideas.
“I'll make it known to them,” he said.
But commission Chairman JoAnne McHugh said there were a couple of things in the new SOPs she thought should be changed.
“Don't call them changes, call them suggestions,” said McHugh, adding she was talking about minimal changes. “There are some spelling errors, mis-typed words. And I have one or two questions about certain things.”
PSSG consultant Kym Craven told the commission that they would have about 38 SOPs to review.
Staffing and organization have been a problem for the Hooksett department, which has had some trouble keeping officers over the past couple of years. The consultants recommended replacing the department's administrative lieutenant with a civilian, using a sergeant and a lieutenant to supervise patrols, eliminating a captain's position, and establishing a clear chain of command.
Over the past couple of months, the commission has approved the promotions of Sgt. Michael Labrecque to lieutenant, and Detective Janet Bouchard to sergeant. Three new patrol officers have also joined the department.
As for the new administrative assistant, commissioners struggled with what responsibilities that employee would have, how many hours he or she might work and other details of the job. Ultimately, they tossed the question back to Craven and asked her to develop a job description.
One woman who attended Tuesday's Police Commission meeting said a group of school employees were coming to show their support for the police department. She said that since PSSG has stepped in, morale has improved and residents are optimistic about the future of the department.
PSSG has recommended that the department develop stronger connections with the community to generate more of that type of interest and goodwill. The consultants have encouraged greater transparency and have recommended using the department website as a way to keep the community informed about police issues.
But for months, the police department's website has been under construction. When the topic of the website came up, commissioners said it had been a long-standing problem that will eventually be solved.
The department has earmarked $2,000 for web design, but it's not clear when the site might be up and running. And while the department may not have a website, PSSG has drafted a policy on the use of social media.
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Barbara Taormina may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.