New London To Search for New Police Chief
New London — The board of selectmen voted Monday night to take up the search for a new police chief, nearly five months after former chief David Seastrand resigned amid accusations that he pressured a woman he had arrested to pose for nude photographs.
Meanwhile, officials from the state Attorney General’s Office said they are continuing to investigate claims made against Seastrand by other women but won’t elaborate on why that investigation has stretched so many months. The delay yesterday prompted Seastrand’s lawyer to question whether the accusations carry any merit.
“It’s been awfully quiet,” attorney Nicholas Brodich said. “In my opinion, there can’t be anything really significant going on if nothing has come up yet. It’s been a long time. It’s not getting any fresher.”
Seastrand retired in early April, at first quietly through a letter to the town’s board of selectmen. Three days later, though, the Attorney General’s Office revealed that Seastrand had agreed to give up his post and his police credentials after a woman, later identified as a freshman at Colby Sawyer College, said Seastrand had offered to drop charges against her if she posed for nude pictures.
The woman had been arrested in early March and charged with underage drinking and giving the police a false name.
At the time, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young declined to comment on the office’s findings but encouraged a Monitor reporter to seek the office’s then-closed investigation file through a Right-to-Know request. On April 11, about a month after that request was filed, a paralegal from the office said it would take 30 days to respond.
On May 14 the Attorney General’s Office sent the Monitor another letter saying it would need an additional 30 days to respond.
Yesterday, Young said the office is still unable to release information from both the open claims and the initial complaint that was closed with Seastrand’s resignation. She said her office is “hoping to have the new matters resolved sooner rather than later,” but added that it will likely take another 30 days to respond to the request and could need additional time after that.
Young said she was unaware that more women would come forward when she initially said the office could release details about the Colby Sawyer student’s complaint.
“I don’t want to compromise the integrity of (the ongoing) investigation with information from the other one,” she said.
Young declined to say how many women have filed complaints or to discuss their content.
Brodich yesterday said he and Seastrand have also been left in the dark about the nature of the attorney general’s investigation.
“I don’t know what quote unquote ‘continuing an investigation means,’ ” Brodich said. “Does it mean aggressively pursuing it and going out there every day and trying to interview witnesses? Or does it mean, ‘We’re not closing any doors yet and if someone wants to call us we’ll consider the information?’ ”
He said he hasn’t heard from the Attorney General’s Office or the lawyer representing the Colby Sawyer student since a few weeks after Seastrand’s resignation. The woman’s attorney, Richard Lehmann, said at the time that she was considering lawsuits against both the former chief and the town.
Yesterday Lehmann said no such litigation has been filed because they are waiting for the attorney general’s office to complete its investigation.
In New London on Monday night, the town’s Board of Selectmen voted to begin its search for Seastrand’s permanent replacement, said Town Administrator Kimberly Hallquist. Seastrand had been with the department for 27 years, 17 as chief. In his absence, the selectmen appointed longtime department member Ed Anderson as interim chief.
Hallquist said the selectmen held off on finding a permanent replacement to see if “things calmed down” at the police station and to complete a review of department procedures and policies. She and Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard, whose office conducted that review, both stressed that the inquiry wasn’t intended as a direct response to the allegations against Seastrand.
His resignation after so many years at the department’s helm, they said, simply offered an opportunity to reassess the office’s efficiency.
The review handed down harsh criticism for the department’s policies, finding that only seven of nearly 60 policies had been updated since 2007 and suggesting that the remaining policies receive an “immediate and complete updating.” Hallquist said yesterday that Anderson started that process in June.
Overall, though, the report highlighted that employees were responding to a “very difficult situation” with professionalism.
“While employees were sad about the situation that had left them in the ‘spotlight,’ all that I interviewed said it was like a ‘breath of fresh air’ and they were looking forward to ‘new life’ and a chance to make new strides within the community,” Chief Deputy Craig Saltmarsh of the sheriff’s office wrote in the report.
Hallquist said yesterday the board will begin drafting a job posting for a new chief at its next meeting.