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Manchester alderman urges review of police phone use

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 19. 2013 11:27PM

MANCHESTER — Following testimony by an officer that he used his work phone to communicate with women over a four-year period, a city alderman plans to ask that a committee be set up to review the use of department-issued cell phones.

Last week a Rockingham County Superior Court jury found Manchester police officer Nathan Linstad, 35, not guilty of simple assault against his estranged wife at their Raymond home last September.

Linstad acknowledged during his testimony that he had deceived his wife for nearly four years by communicating and exchanging photos, e-mails and text messages with other women on his work phone.

“So it was OK you were talking to all your girlfriends on your work phone?” Assistant County Attorney Patricia Conway asked Linstad.

“It’s not against the rules,” Linstad testified.

“I am not sure how other members of this board feel about the use of phones by Manchester police officers, but this statement causes me a lot of concerns, both financially and legally,” Alderman-at-Large Joseph Kelly Levasseur wrote in a letter to fellow aldermen.

He plans to bring up the issue at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. That meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chambers on the third floor of City Hall, One City Hall Plaza.

“I would like the issue concerning the use of ‘work’ phones being used by Manchester officers while ‘working’ and why that use is not against the rules to be addressed,” wrote Levasseur in his letter to the board. “I would like to know the costs associated with these phones, cell phone plans being used, how many minutes are being used and for what reason. There have been serious concerns raised by constituents as to Officer Linstad’s statements concerning the use of phones to send texts and pictures not being against the rules.”

Manchester Police Chief David Mara said Friday his department has already taken measures to ensure such concerns are addressed.

“The phones issued to members of the Community Police Division are on plans where they aren’t capable of sending texts or pictures,” said Mara. “There are a few people in the building that are issued smart phones, but the phones we are talking about here aren’t capable of doing those things. The testimony covers talking with the woman using a work phone.”

Mara said the phones are to be used for police business, but if used for a personal call, the officer is expected to review the monthly bill, compile the minutes that were used for personal calls and reimburse the city.

“The expectation is there that they will give back the money for those minutes,” said Mara. “They are aware of that, and officers are paying the city back.”

Mara said Friday he was not aware if Linstad had reimbursed the city for the minutes used when contacting women on a personal basis.

Cell phone usage in Manchester government was also questioned in 2006. In April of that year, the city school district canceled cell phone contracts after some school board members raised concerns about their cost and personal use by employees. A review of city employee phones at the time showed City Hall spent $11,354 a month on cell phones and pagers for employees, with 30 of the city’s 194 cell phones logging no minutes over the course of a month, while 24 others had charges in excess of $70 a month.

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