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Hartford, Plainfield and Windsor police chiefs all resigning

  • Hartford Police Chief Phil Kasten reacts after hearing a speaker during public comment on the proposed Fair and Impartial Policing policy at a meeting of the Hartford Selectboard in White River Junction, Vt., Tuesday, July 16, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News file photo — James M. Patterson

  • Plainfield Police Chief Paul Roberts, left, and New Hampshire State Police Staff Sgt. Jayson Almstrom step away from the scene of a fatal accident in Cornish, N.H., to brief members of the news media on Thursday, May 3, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Chief William Sampson at the Windsor Police Department's Shop with a Cop event held at Walmart in Claremont, N.H., on Wednesday, December 23, 2015. (Valley News - Kristen Zeis) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Kristen Zeis—Valley News - Kristen Zeis

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/9/2021 5:57:23 PM
Modified: 1/9/2021 6:05:58 PM

HARTFORD — Three Upper Valley police chiefs have announced their resignations in the last two weeks, citing such factors as family matters, career opportunities and even pension concerns.

Hartford Police Chief Phil Kasten submitted his resignation on Thursday, Interim Town Manager John MacLean confirmed on Saturday. He said Kasten gave “family and career” as reasons for his departure.

“There’s no real other reason than that,” MacLean said, adding, “I’m sorry to see him go.”

Veteran chiefs in Plainfield and Windsor are also departing their posts.

Kasten, who is in his 40s, was hired for the position in early 2015 after serving as deputy chief in the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department in Maryland, with a salary of about $94,000 at the time. Members of the union representing the police department have said Kasten made a “relentless effort” to change the culture of policing in Hartford by creating a better connection with citizens and businesses.

In 2019, Kasten and his department became the focus of discussion as residents and town officials debated a “Welcoming Ordinance” that bars police from sharing a person’s citizenship status with federal authorities and prohibits officers from pulling over or arresting people based on their suspected immigration status. The ordinance passed at Town Meeting in March.

Amid the discussions, Kasten raised concerns that the ordinance could run afoul of federal law pertaining to communication between government agencies and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. He also said Hartford police already did not ask people they interacted with about their immigration status. At least one board member suggested at the time that there was concern Kasten would leave the department if the ordinance passed.

Messages to Kasten seeking comment on his decision were not returned Saturday.

In Plainfield, Police Chief Paul Roberts, a 23-year veteran of the department, stepped down on Jan. 6, citing his recent difficulty with a mandatory physical agility test as the reason for his decision.

“I fought with it for years,” Roberts, 56, said in an interview Friday. “I thought ‘maybe this is a sign.’ ”

Roberts previously worked for the Lebanon police department before joining the Plainfield department in 1997. He was promoted to police chief in 2010 and made an annual salary of $63,700, according to the town website. He said since he began policing in the 1980s, he’s always viewed officers as the “problem solvers” in the community.

“I always took the role that we were more peacekeepers than law enforcement,” he said, adding that he enjoyed getting out in the community and meeting with Plainfield residents.

Some of the community outreach Roberts said he’s proudest of includes regularly having lunch with senior citizens and discussing ways they can avoid telephone and internet scams. Another effort is called the “wrap around program” in which Plainfield police would work with school officials and counselors to provide help and support to students who were struggling with their home lives, he said.

When considering recent national debates over police use of force and funding, Roberts said he has seen increased tension between officers and the public.

“(The public) is questioning everything law enforcement does,” he said, but added that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “You need to be accountable to the public.”

Roberts has no plans to return to law enforcement in the future, but said that he would like to spend more time with his family, and may return to public service or do volunteer work at some point.

Sgt. Anthony Swett will take over as Plainfield’s interim police chief Jan. 20, according to Town Administrator Steve Halleran.

Windsor Police Chief Bill Sampson, who submitted his resignation Dec. 29, is leaving to accept the position of police chief in Middleton, Mass., according to his resignation letter, which was published in the Selectboard’s agenda packet last week.

“The decision to accept this position was not an easy one. Ultimately being back in the Massachusetts retirement system and closer to my family were the deciding factors,” he wrote.

Sampson, 51, has been with the department since 2014 and makes $107,000 a year, according to Town Manager Tom Marsh. A Massachusetts native, he previously worked for law enforcement agencies in Florida and in Massachusetts. Calls and messages to Sampson for comment on his departure were not returned Friday.

The department came under scrutiny several years ago when — shortly after he was hired — police deleted a report about a fight at a bar, which involved an officer and a citizen. Sampson was not involved in the fight but was at the bar at the time, a detail that was omitted from a second report the department produced.

During a virtual Windsor Selectboard meeting Saturday morning, board members discussed Sampson’s resignation, which Marsh noted is “not final” because officials in Middleton, a town of about 10,000 north of Boston, still need to conduct a background check.

However, he added that it’s expected to be finalized soon, and Sampson’s tentative last day is Feb. 1. Windsor Police Sgt. Paul Favreau will take over while the town looks for another chief — a search Marsh hopes to complete by June.

During the meeting, board member Amanda Smith urged Marsh to consider taking input from the public during the hiring process, adding that the town has been looking for more transparency in their emergency services department. She and board member Chris Goulet also stressed that the town should consider candidates who support “deescalation and demilitarization.”

“I really hope that this person doesn’t look to further militarize the police but rather incorporate them into the community,” Smith said.

Marsh said Sampson will be present at a virtual budget meeting with board members on Tuesday and members will have a chance to ask him some questions about his decision then.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.




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