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Ex-Claremont officer pleads guilty, avoids jail in illegal search case


Staff Report
Thursday, March 14, 2019

CONCORD — A former Claremont police officer pleaded guilty on Thursday to unsworn falsification but avoided jail time, bringing to a close a falsified records case that’s followed the department for the past year and led to dozens of cases being dropped.

Former Officer Mark Burch, 32, of Claremont, was sentenced to 100 hours of community service after a plea deal for his role in a case in which he and then-Sgt. Ian Kibbe falsified documentation of a search in February 2018.

Burch pleaded guilty to one class A misdemeanor charge of unsworn falsification. As part of the deal, he also was sentenced to 12 months in jail, all suspended dependent on good behavior, and he has agreed not to seek employment as a police officer in the state of New Hampshire.

Burch and Kibbe’s case stems from an arrest on Feb. 24, 2018, after which the two searched the bedroom of Christopher Ratcliffe, a Claremont resident who had been arrested for allegedly violating a protective order.

Kibbe and Burch went to Ratcliffe’s home to recover a cellphone, and when they did, Burch saw a rifle in plain sight. It was at that time Kibbe opened a bag and suitcase to uncover a handgun and a baton — an illegal act because the items were concealed, so the bag and suitcase couldn’t be searched legally without a warrant.

Kibbe and Burch returned to the station and lied in their reports about how they discovered the weapons. The affidavit they produced was then used to hold Ratcliffe, a convicted felon, in jail.

Kibbe was sentenced in January to serve 90 days in jail on an unsworn falsification charge, though he also formally was sentenced on a charge of obstructing government administration for a total of two years, all but 90 days suspended.

During Kibbe’s sentencing, the judge said that the officers’ actions impacted not only Ratcliffe’s case, but more than two dozen other cases in the county that Kibbe and Burch had investigated. At least 30 cases in Sullivan County were dropped.