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Thetford Police Chief Steps Down

Thetford Police Chief Jim Lanctot (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Thetford Police Chief Jim Lanctot (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Thetford — The chief of police tendered his resignation to the Selectboard Monday, announcing plans to operate a pizza restaurant on Route 5.

Jim Lanctot joined the department in 2003 and became chief in January 2006. His last day with the force is scheduled for May 23.

Lanctot, 46, said he recently purchased the Pizza Loft restaurant on Route 5 in East Thetford, located on the second floor of the old Pompy Press building that previously housed Tatunka Tattoo on the ground level.

“I’ve long wanted to own a restaurant,” Lanctot, a Thetford resident, said Wednesday. “This is not a new, out-of-the-blue sort of thing, but an opportunity simply presented itself and I took it.”

Selectman Donn Downey, the board member whose area of responsibility includes the police force, said the board had not been expecting Lanctot’s resignation.

Downey said he was familiar generally with Lanctot’s desire to some day pursue other interests. In that sense, Downey said, “it wasn’t a huge surprise that he wants to do something different.”

“In hindsight,” Downey added, “some of the members thought that they might be hearing whispers of something happening only because ... with the nature of real estate,” it’s hard to keep such transactions secret.

In addition to Lanctot, Thetford employs two full-time officers and one part-time position that is filled on a rotating basis by multiple people. The current salary for police chief is $60,445, according to information provided by the town treasurer.

Downey said the board likely would use its upcoming board meeting on Monday to appoint a search committee for a new chief and chart the next steps.

Lanctot has offered to remain on the force in some capacity past May 23, if needed, a step that Downey said the board may consider.

Lanctot said his resignation is unrelated to some tumult in the department in the past year, including an unfair labor complaint filed by Thetford’s police union against the town last summer.

The complaint alleged that Lanctot refused to talk to Stuart Rogers, a patrol officer whom he had accused in an email of “destroying my police department.”

The Vermont Labor Relations Board dismissed Rogers’ claim in December following a mediation session, according to paperwork provided by Downey.

The agreement stipulated that Rogers and Lanctot would meet on a regular basis to promote communication.

“I swear to God, that has absolutely nothing to do with it,” Lanctot said. “It’s an interesting timing thing. I’ve even talked about it openly here, ‘You know what’s going to happen is somebody’s going to try to tie this in with something else,’ and it really isn’t.”

Downey said he did not believe that the complaint filed with the Labor Relations Board had factored into Lanctot’s decision.

“I can’t imagine this having anything to do with that,” he said, calling police chief “a pretty grueling, demanding job” that can wear down the officeholder over time.

“We’re really happy for him,” Downey said. “We’re really happy that this is going to transition under good terms and it will be a good collaboration and it isn’t going to be some nasty transition.”

Lanctot said he likely would seek work as a part-time police officer after he steps down in Thetford so that he can attend yearly trainings and maintain his police certifications in case he chooses to return to police work full time.

“You never say never and I may not be done with law enforcement for the rest of my life,” he said.

He said he wouldn’t seek part-time work on the Thetford force for fear of stepping on toes. He previously lived in St. Johnsbury and worked as a police officer there.

Lanctot said he plans on creating “an entirely new menu” at Pizza Loft and likely would enlist the help of family members to get it going. He said he has been receiving messages of support from the community since announcing his departure.

“Honestly, we’re all replaceable,” he said, “but I appreciate everybody’s response so far, and they’ve all been positive, this is a positive thing that’s going on here. ... Thetford’s still my home. I really love the community and I really fully support this police department, and it’s as strong as it’s ever been, and I hope that everyone supports it with me.”

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.