NH town feuds over future of only cop

Published: Mar. 29, 2019 at 5:23 PM EDT
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The town of Croydon, New Hampshire, is considering using an outside agency to cover policing duties in the community, but the plan is not sitting well with some residents, and the town's only cop.

Croydon is a small town with a little over 700 people and one part-time police chief, Richard Lee. But there's a big controversy surrounding the future of Lee's job.

"We have been having heated discussions," Lee admitted. He says those discussions came to a head at town meeting. "About how I conduct my business here in town."

In a 48 to 36 vote, residents supported the selectboard's decision to consider an outside agency, like a neighboring department, to police the community. But there was an almost immediate pushback, with some questioning the legitimacy of the vote and whether it was binding.

"If the voters were completely informed and understood what they were voting on and they voted me out, then I can live with that," Lee said. But he says that's not what happened, though he acknowledges the selectboard has debated the issue the last two years.

Local resident Norma Menard is among those that support the possibility of using an outside agency. "I think it is time for them to to look at doing something else and it has been brought up in many, many meetings," she said.

Menard and others were blunt, saying the chief doesn't do his job. One example, Menard says, is when Lee has been asked to park his cruiser on the street to deter speeders, he instead uses the town office parking lot. "He's an employee and he should do what is asked of him and what people want him to do," she said.

Since town meeting, more that 100 people signed a petition to hold a special meeting to have another vote, though it's unclear if that would be binding.

Lee says the attempt to oust him from the job he's held for 19 years is personal. "I've been involved with family members being charged, with offenses whether it's motor vehicle or crimes, it doesn't matter. I've given summons directly to people and they don't like that their toes have been stepped on," he said.

But others say it's about accountability. However, Menard agrees with the chief that many in town may not have been informed before they voted. "I just wish more people in town would go in and read the minutes and attend the town meetings," she said.

Town officials are currently reviewing the petition to determine the next step, however, a date for a special session has not yet been set.

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