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Lebanon Cop Fakes Fitness Test Results for Two Other Officers

Lebanon — In mid-December, Lebanon police officers gathered at a local indoor track to be timed as they ran 12 laps. They needed to finish the 1.5-mile run in 13 minutes and 24 seconds or better to keep their jobs.

In New Hampshire, law enforcement officers hired after 2000 are required to pass a physical fitness test every three years. Lebanon Police Lt. Shawn P. Freitas, a 12-year veteran of the force, was the officer authorized to conduct the fitness test for the Lebanon department by the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council, which was established by the Legislature in 1971 to “establish minimum hiring and educational standards for police and state corrections officers,” according to the council’s website.

After Sgt. Michael Roberts and officer Paul Gifford crossed the finish line, Freitas noted that both had completed the run in 13 minutes and 22 seconds, beating the required time for officers in the 30 to 39 age group by two seconds.

But it was not true.

The council later learned that Freitas had “willfully submitted” times for Roberts and Gifford to the Police Standards and Training Council that he knew were “not truthful,” according to council documents. In a March 25 closed-door hearing in Concord, Freitas acknowledged that he had “submitted false documentation of the fitness tests,” council documents show.

After the hearing, the council voted 9-0 to revoke Freitas’ police certification. He will not be allowed to work as a police officer in New Hampshire for at least two years. He has until this week to ask for a rehearing. Freitas, one of the highest-ranking officers in the Lebanon department, resigned on March 3. He could not be reached for comment.

The false report filed by Freitas has had repercussions inside the 30-officer Lebanon department. Roberts resigned on March 15, after nearly 12 years on the force. In late March, Roberts appeared before the Police Standards and Training Council for a closed-door hearing, at which the council voted 7-2 to take no action on his certification, meaning he could continue working as a police officer.

“The lieutenant in the case (Freitas) had the responsibility of accurately reporting the test and the officer (Roberts) did not question his authority as a superior,” the minutes of the March 25 hearing show.

On April 10, after having passed the fitness test, Roberts was rehired. But he still paid a price — literally. His rank dropped from sergeant to patrol officer, resulting in a pay cut of more than $6 an hour, from $34.21 to $28.14.

Roberts didn’t respond to requests for comment last week.

“He’s a good officer,” said Lebanon Police Chief Gary Smith. “There’s a lot of people who would disagree with me — the people he arrests. If you look at the statistics, he’s a good police officer. He has a great sense of our job. He has a memory that goes on forever. I don’t get a lot of complaints.”

According to the order revoking Freitas’ certification, which the Valley News obtained through a public records request, Freitas resigned during a Lebanon police internal investigation.

Gifford also was asked to appear before the standards and training council on March 25. Meeting minutes give few details about the hearing, much of which took place in a non-public session. The council voted unanimously to take no action on his certification. Gifford could not be reached for comment last week.

Smith, who became Lebanon’s chief last year, declined to discuss the situation because it involved personnel issues. He did confirm, however, that Gifford passed his fitness test and remains a member of the Lebanon force. Gifford is in such good physical condition, Smith said, that he “could run the track backward and pass.”

Asked why Gifford was brought before the standards and training council, Smith said the council was conducting a full investigation.

Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Prozzo Jr. is chairman of the council, which includes New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster and law enforcement officials from around the state. Prozzo said he couldn’t recall the specifics of the council’s decisions in case of the three Lebanon officers. When a potential violation comes before the board, he said, the council listens to the evidence and makes a decision based on the testimony.

“The academy has our policies and rules and regulations and we expect everybody to abide by them,” Prozzo said. “When we are notified that there is a violation of the rules, the 12-member board takes that seriously. … We expect everybody to abide by the rules.”

While Roberts and Gifford continue to work in Lebanon, Freitas’ employment status couldn’t be determined. Freitas had been living in the Springfield, Vt., area. On Friday, the Springfield town clerk said it was her understanding that he had recently moved.

“He’s a stand-up guy,” Smith said. “He’s a man with a big heart.”

Smith wouldn’t say whether his department had taken any disciplinary action against Roberts or Gifford. He said it was a personnel issue that couldn’t be discussed publicly.

“Obviously you demand your officer be honest in every facet of their job and anytime there’s any kind of question, you have to take appropriate action, in any way that may be,” Smith said.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.