Former City Cop Hired in Thetford
Thetford — A former Lebanon police officer who was charged with two counts of simple assault after allegedly grabbing a woman’s wrist and pushing her at a local bar while he was off duty in 2011 has been hired as a part-time patrol officer in Thetford.
Thetford Police Chief Jim Lanctot said he was aware of Todd Lique’s history and, in fact, hired him after an extensive background check convinced him that there was no reason not to. That background check began last May, and Lique, 44, recently started his new position.
“I’m aware of basically anything I needed to be aware of before a decision was made,” Lanctot said. “I’m confident that we have the right guy on the road with us. He wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think so.”
Selectboard Chairman Stuart Rogers, whose son is on the Thetford Police Department, also expressed support for Lique. When an officer is hired, the chief is responsible for sorting through applications and doing background checks, but the Selectboard has to give final approval. And in this case, Rogers said the board didn’t have reservations about his qualifications for the job.
Questions in Lebanon about Lique arose following an incident on March 20, 2011, when he was a corporal with the city police department. Lique was at The Cave bar in downtown Lebanon and allegedly grabbed the arm of the woman he was with and twisted it, according to Lique’s personnel file from the Lebanon Police Department.
He allegedly refused to let her go after the bar security guard repeatedly asked him to release his grip because Lique was “hurting her,” according to documents in Lique’s personnel file. Lique then allegedly pushed the woman, and she was caught by the bar security guard.
Ultimately, both simple assault charges were placed on file at Lebanon Circuit Court without a finding. Prosecutor John McCormick agreed that the charges would be set aside if Lique demonstrated good behavior for two years, according to Lebanon Circuit Court Clerk Pamela Kozlowski.
Lique resigned from the Lebanon Police Department in 2011 after the police chief and city manager recommended his termination. After Lique, who had worked in Lebanon for almost a decade, appealed the termination decision to an arbitration board, the city allowed him to resign.
Lique, who is being paid $19.20 an hour in Thetford, declined to comment for this story.
Brian Cullen, an attorney in Nashua who once represented Lique, said when contacted for this story, “I think Todd is an excellent officer, and I think the circumstances that he left Lebanon were very regrettable, but ones that he was very candid about.”
I n 2012, Lique’s attorney, Peter Perroni, provided the Valley News a statement that read: “Todd vehemently disputed the allegations made against him and during the arbitration proceedings regarding Todd’s job, all disciplinary charges against Todd were withdrawn by the City of Lebanon. There was no final finding of wrongdoing, Todd was not convicted of a crime and was not terminated by the City of Lebanon.”
Then-Lebanon Police Chief Jim Alexander explained in a nine-page letter to City Manager Greg Lewis, dated May 20, 2011, his reasons for recommending Lique’s termination, which included insubordination because the deputy chief had instructed Lique not to speak to people who may have been involved in the investigation. The department discovered that Lique had texted a man who could have been a potential witness.
Alexander also cited “dishonesty” as a reason for Lique’s termination. When Lique was first questioned about the incident, according to Alexander, he told the deputy chief that he “didn’t remember anything” and that he “wished he knew what this was about.” Later, Lique acknowledged during an internal investigation that he knew what the deputy chief had been referring to all along.
“I was gonna protect myself,” Lique told another officer.
Alexander told the Valley News in 2012 that roughly five misdemeanor cases involving Lique were dropped in Lebanon Circuit Court because of concerns about his credibility.
T he Valley News obtained Lique’s personnel file when it was part of a publicly available court file in a federal lawsuit. The record was later sealed, and the case dismissed.
Lanctot said he was aware of all the allegations against Lique, including that Alexander and Lewis had recommended his termination, but eventually concluded that the allegations against him are “just not accurate.” Lique passed a polygraph test, Lanctot noted.
“I’m standing behind Todd, and this is a guy that I trust with my life at this point now,” Lanctot said. “I do not find him to be dishonest at all. If he was dishonest during any part of the hiring process, he wouldn’t have been hired. It’s a very tough background that we do. There’s no cover-up here. I stand behind him because he didn’t do anything wrong.”
Rogers, the Thetford Selectboard chairman, said whatever concerns he might have had about Lique were addressed by the recommendations that accompanied Lique’s application and by the fact that he wasn’t convicted of the simple assault charges.
Although Rogers said he hadn’t been aware that Alexander and Lewis had written letters recommending Lique’s termination, he said that such information doesn’t alter his opinion — he still trusts Lanctot’s recommendation.
“Again, following what was written in the recommendations and the paperwork that was presented to us, we followed with the chief’s recommendations,” Rogers said.
The Selectboard did have a discussion about Lique’s history in Lebanon, Rogers said, but the discussion was more focused on possible questions from the public about the hire.
After Lique resigned in 2011, his certification to work as a law enforcement officer lapsed 30 days later, which is standard for anyone who leaves law enforcement, said Tim Merrill, law enforcement training specialist for the New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council. Lique has not worked as an officer in New Hampshire since 2011.
In Vermont, Lique completed a two-week basic training program in March and has a provisional part-time certification, which means he has subsequent training to complete while on the job, as well as additional courses, said Cindy Taylor-Patch, director of training for the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council. In order for a police officer to be entered into the police academy, his supervisor must first affirm that he has conducted a polygraph and a thorough background check that includes fingerprints.
The Thetford Police Department is made up of three full-time officers, including the chief, and two part-time officers. Lanctot said he tries to hire officers who he thinks will fit into the Thetford community and will understand community-oriented policing.
Lique meets those requirements, he said.
“We’re putting somebody in a marked police cruiser with a gun that has the authority to cease someone’s civil rights,” Lanctot said. “Obviously we don’t want the wrong person to be there. ...We can’t afford to have mistakes in this line of work.”
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3223.