Last Wednesday, Seabrook made an impressively decisive move to restore the public’s faith in a police department rocked by a brutality scandal.
In November of 2009, officers Mark Richardson and Adam Laurent were escorting Michael Bergeron, then 19, to a cell when Richardson suddenly slammed Bergeron so hard against a wall that Bergeron’s head snapped back and his body went limp. The officers filed a report stating that Bergeron was aggressive and uncooperative.
This past January, Bergeron posted police surveillance of the incident online, and the officers’ story fell apart. In April, Richardson was indicted for “unprivileged physical contact.” To the town’s credit, Seabrook officials did not try to sweep this under the rug or make excuses. They put the officers on leave and hired an outside company to conduct an investigation.
Last week, the investigation complete, the town fired two officers, suspended one without pay, and demoted another. “Seldom have you seen that in police departments in this state, that kind of discipline,” town labor attorney Joseph McKittrick said. “We will never tolerate that kind of conduct in this town.”
The town’s response was so thorough that Bergeron’s own mother said it “restored my faith in the town.”
We were impressed both with the disciplinary actions and the release of the report. So often in cases like these, town officials hide information by claiming they cannot discuss personnel matters. Other New Hampshire municipalities now have an example to follow when dealing with similar cases.