By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILMANTON — Selectmen met in an emergency session Monday and ordered that all outside detail work done by the police department be restricted only to the town because of an emergency caused by two resignations.
Town Administrator Paul Branscombe said Thursday that "it was public knowledge" that two of the town's full-time police officers are considering full-time positions in other departments.
Police Chief Matt Currier said Thursday that he has had no official resignations from his department and that there is no policing emergency.
Selectman Steve McWhinnie, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Michael Jean, said the board was informed two weeks ago that two officers are leaving, adding that the department is down to the chief and the sergeant as the only full-time employees.
"This is not only a poor reflection of the police department but on our day-to-day management," said McWhinnie.
McWhinnie tried to order the three part-time police officers to work full-time for the town but Branscombe said they don't have the authority to do that and there are reasons the three part-time police officers work part-time.
"The Police Department is at full staff," he said. "There are five full-time police officers and three part-time police officers."
"If there are people who are leaving, I have been approached by other certified officers who are seeking employment," Currier continued, adding that if there are to be any openings, he would use the same vetting process the department has always used to ensure they are hiring the best possible candidates.
While Currier declined to mention any of his employees by name, saying any discussion of individual employees would be a personnel matter, Whinnie did name the two officers who he said have verbally tendered their resignations.
He said the board would be holding an exit interview with one of them although, as of Thursday morning, no one had officially resigned.
A high-ranking local police official not affiliated with Gilmanton said he thought it was "highly inappropriate" that an elected board would be discussing individual police personnel matters in a public session.
"It seems to me this discussion should have been had in nonpublic sessions," he said.
He also said that while some civilian oversight of police agencies is necessary, some elected officials feel they need to micromanage a department when they don't know a lot about policing.
"They should leave the day-to-day department operations to the professionals," he said.
Branscombe said Thursday that, in his experience managing small communities, police officers most often seek employment elsewhere in order to earn more money or to get a wider variety of career opportunities that just aren't available in small communities like Gilmanton or Ashland.
"It happened many times in Ashland," he said.
He said the average pay for a full-time police officer in Gilmanton is $22 per hour or about $880 a week without overtime and police details, and that he wouldn't be shocked to learn that bigger departments are paying higher wages.
Currier said yesterday that he had not been asked to meet with the Board of Selectmen in either a public or private session to discuss this or any other police matter.
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