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Town shows up to support NH PD after critical audit

Community members, town officials and retired police officers gathered in front of the Police Department to share a message of unity

Breanna Edelstein
The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

SALEM, N.H. — Community members, town officials and retired police officers gathered in front of the Police Department Monday night to share a message of unity.

“We’re here for them like they’re here for us,” organizer Anthony Drago, a longtime Salem resident, said of the town’s Police Department. “We’re done with the bashing. We’re just here to show support.”

Drago recruited a couple of dozen Salem residents to share handshakes and words of encouragement with police, who have been criticized after an audit of the department ordered by Town Manager Chris Dillon earlier this year revealed areas in need of serious improvement.

Those areas include internal investigations, timekeeping practices and the department’s overall culture.

“They’ve acknowledged that there are some things that need to be fixed,” Drago said. “Give them time. We need to just give them a chance to go through with the changes they acknowledged they need.”

Deputy Chief Rob Morin and several of his colleagues were encouraged by the support.

“We’re going to come out on the other side of this,” Morin said. “If we can better something, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Eight months passed from the time of the announcement of the audit to its completion, which led to a difficult waiting game, Morin said.

“We know what we need to do. Now we get to work,” he said.

The town has hired retired Andover Police Chief Brian Pattullo through an outside firm to help implement suggestions from the audit.

Pattullo does not have policing powers in Salem, but will work full time with department staff and town officials for an undetermined amount of time. He will receive $87 per hour, paid by the town’s budget.

Morin and the town manager said they were encouraged Monday, after Pattullo’s first day on the job. They agreed that Pattullo’s 32 years of policing and leadership experience will serve Salem well.

Selectmen Lisa Withrow and Bob Bryant offered the same optimism as they stood outside the Police Department Monday night to show support for police.

They each shot down an “us-versus-them” mentality that is circulating in Salem, noting that town officials and police officers have the same mission — to serve residents.

Bryant, a former part-time Salem police officer, talked about budget cuts and tight staffing that has stretched the department thin for decades.

“I’m just here to show my support for them,” Bryant said. “They’re a hard-working group.”

Retired officer John Bouchard, who stepped down from the force in 2001 after 32 years, reiterated Bryant’s sentiment.

“They (police) deal with a lot, and the town is only growing,” Bouchard said.

Dillon, the town manager, was not in attendance Monday night due to a family obligation, but extended his support for police earlier in the day.

“I wish I could make it, to show them that I support them,” he said of the Monday night gathering outside the police station. “This audit was not an attack on the Police Department. I think we should all be looking at ways to improve, and that includes Town Hall.”

Police Chief Paul Donovan was not seen at Monday night’s gathering. He has taken a step back and is seldom seen at the police station, but is still the department’s leader as Pattullo assists with working on areas that need improvement, according to the audit.


©2018 The Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, Mass.)

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