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Lebanon Picks Top Cop

Friday, December 11, 2015
Lebanon — A New Hampshire resident with extensive law enforcement experience has been named chief of the Lebanon Police Department.

Lebanon City Manager Dennis Luttrell on Friday announced the recent appointment of Richard Mello, a lieutenant at Hollis Police Department in southern New Hampshire.

“Mr. Mello has been described by those he has served with as phenomenal, loyal, respectful and hardworking,” Luttrell said in a news release. “I am pleased to have him join our police force and welcome him to our community.”

Mello will start on Dec. 21 in Lebanon.

The 43-year-old began his policing career in 1993 in Concord and worked for the Manchester force before taking a position in Hollis in 2002. Mello worked his way up through the ranks at the Hollis department, ultimately becoming a lieutenant, a position that made him second in command of the 15-officer force.

He has worked side by side with Hollis police Chief James Sartell for the past four years, and has been instrumental in advancing the agency, Sartell said.

Mello has helped improve Hollis’ equipment and infrastructure, increased grant funding and started the path to accrediting the agency with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, all while running daily operations, providing support services and working with the community.

“He is very versatile; there isn’t a weak part of his game,” Sartell said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “He is extremely qualified for this job, and I am happy for him and his family. He is honest, he is forthcoming, he is brave, he is smart, he is diligent, and above all, he really cares about community.”

The Lebanon Police Department currently has a strong background in “community engagement” and “community policing,” Mello said, which he characterized as two important aspects of any agency. It was Lebanon’s commitment to community that drew him in, he said.

Specifically, the department strives to engage with Lebanon residents and uses an “outside the box” model to solve problems rather than being reactive, Mello said. He hopes to strengthen those tactics .

“I think I can come in and hit the ground running and add to the mix,” Mello said. “I think it is a good fit.”

Mello holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in criminology from Florida State University.

In addition to training other police officers, he has taught college students at both Middlesex Community College in Lowell, Mass., and Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester.

Mello’s educational background, his will to teach and his law enforcement experience made him the best candidate for the job, Luttrell said.

“I felt he was the total package,” said Luttrell, who has sole discretion over hiring all city department heads.

Former Lebanon police Chief Gary Smith retired in May after 28 years with the department. Phil Roberts has filed the role of deputy police chief in the interim.

Mello, who will earn $95,000 in his first year, was one of 18 candidates in the running for the position when Luttrell came into office in September. Luttrell declined to comment on whether any internal candidates were finalists.

Lebanon Police Department union President Paul Gifford said the union learned of Mello’s appointment on Thursday. It was the union’s hope the city manager would appoint Roberts as chief, Gifford said.

“We exhausted all avenues to advocate for Phil to become chief,” he said. “We thought Phil would have been the best fit.”

Luttrell wouldn’t tell the union who the other finalists were, Gifford said, noting Roberts did apply for the position.

Gifford said the union wasn’t impressed with how the selection process went, and largely was kept out of the loop.

The union, however, remains open minded, Gifford said, and looks forward to seeing what Mello has to offer the department.

“We are anxious, but hopeful,” Gifford said.

A message left for Jim Mercer, head of Atlanta-based Mercer Group that led the search, wasn’t immediately returned.

Lebanon Assistant Mayor Sue Prentiss said although she doesn’t know Mello personally, she was impressed by his credentials.

“He has experience and the academics,” Prentiss said. “From what I see, I am pleased with the manager’s choice.”

Mello lives in southern New Hampshire with his wife and children. He plans to relocate to the Lebanon area.

He enjoys living an active lifestyle and playing baseball “at the spring age of 43.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at or 603-727-3248.

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