Laconia Police Department joins multi-agency initiative to prevent suicide

LACONIA — The Police Department, along with the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health and Genesis Behavioral Health, with the Lakes Region, are taking part in an initiative to prevent suicide.

Lieutenant Richard Simmons told the Police Commission yesterday that the department is participating by means of a “Problem Oriented Policiing” or POP project in which he is joined by Lieutenant Al Graton, three patrol officers and a dispatcher. “This is very different from any of the other POP projects we’ve done,” Simmons said, explaining that other projects addressed problems in which the police are directly engaged.

The initiative is sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness — NH (NAMI-NH) , as part of a statewide effort mounted in association with the State Suicide Prevention Council. Ken Norton, executive director of NAMI-NH, said that “we try to involve law enforcement right away,” noting that police officers are usually the first to respond to a suicide.

Simmons said that the first step his team took was to attend classes offered by NAMI-NH and undergo training on limiting access to lethal means. Then he said the officers partnered with Elaine deMello of NAMI-NH, David Bouchard of Genesis Behavioral Health, Tammy Levesque of the Lakes Region Partnership for Public Health and Father Marc Drouin, chaplain to the department.

Rather than focus on reducing suicides, Simmons said the group chose to inform the public of what role the police can play in a crisis arising from a threatened or successful suicide and, in particular, to dispel fear and apprehension of calling on the police in such situations. He said the team has developed a lesson plan and spoken with local employers and on radio as well as begun preparing pamphlets and a video, all designed to explain the services the police and its partners can provide. Simmons said that the police can secure lethal means, especially firearms, as well as safely transport individuals in crisis to an appropriate facility where they can receive professional help.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among those aged 10 to 24 in New Hampshire, with young men four times more likely to take their own lives than women, although women are more likely to attempt suicide. Norton noted that this is a group familiar to the police who are well placed to identify young men at risk at risk, particularly those wrestling with mental illness or substance abuse.

For nine of the last ten years, the number of suicides per 100,000 people in New Hampshire has exceeded the national average and the suicide rate in Belknap County of 15.2 per 100,000 was the fourth highest among the ten counties in the state.

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2nd man indicted in credit card theft that involved police officer

HAVERHILL — A second Laconia man has been indicted by a Grafton County grand jury for his role in the June 2013 theft of a credit card that ended up in the hands of a close family member of a former Tilton police corporal.

Richard A. McNeil, 40, of 18A Charles St. was indicted earlier this week for one count of receiving stolen property – a Lowe’s rebate card that was stolen from a Tilton homeowner by Richard Miner who was working as a subcontractor in the victim’s home.

Miner pleaded guilty in August to one count of receiving stolen property and is incarcerated in the Belknap County House of Corrections.

According to a police investigation conducted by the Merrimack County Sheriff’s Department and the N.H. State Police, McNeil was allegedly a confidential informant for former Detective Matt Dawson of the Tilton Police and was the one who allegedly sold the $2,000 card to one of Dawson’s relatives for $600.

Dawson, according to his statement to Merrimack County investigators, is alleged to have brokered the deal between McNeil and his relative.

Investigators learned McNeil met Dawson’s relative in the parking lot at Chili’s and that McNeil told him the card was for some materials that were returned from a job and that he had already been paid for the job.

The investigation was referred out of Belknap County because of a potential conflict with the Belknap County Sheriff’s Department and the Tilton Police Department.

According to Dawson’s statements to police investigators, the card was used twice by Dawson or his relatives – once in Gilford for a small amount, and once in Littleton for $1,900.

Dawson told investigators he asked McNeil if the card was stolen, but McNeil assured him it was not. McNeil told investigators he really thought the card was legitimate because it was a construction rebate card and Miner was working on a big job.

When Dawson realized his co-workers (one of whom was investigating the theft) learned the card had been stolen, investigators said he admitted his role in the matter to his superiors.

McNeil told investigators that once Dawson learned the card was stolen Dawson called him in an effort to get him to “make it right” by getting Miner to call the homeowner and offer to make him whole.

McNeil told investigators he didn’t know if Miner made the call.

Investigation paperwork shows that during McNeil’s interview with police, he initially hesitated about naming Dawson as the person he called when Miner brought him the credit card.

When investigators asked him if it would help if he knew they had already talked to Dawson, McNeil said, “It would help a lot.”

“After that it was a relief for McNeil because he didn’t want to pinch Dawson on anything because he has done so much for him,” investigators wrote.

McNeil said that after Miner gave him the card — they planned on splitting the proceeds — he called Dawson because he knew he was in the construction business. He reaffirmed to police that Dawson asked him if the card was legitimate.

When police asked McNeil if he thought it was unusual that Miner would give him the card and allow him to sell it for such a small amount of money, McNeil allegedly told them that it wasn’t unusual because Fast Cash would only give him 30 cents on the dollar.

During the criminal portion of the investigation, Dawson was on a paid administrative leave. If there was an internal investigation, the Daily Sun doesn’t know about it, and personnel records are not available under the state’s Right to Know laws.

Dawson returned to work but is no longer a detective corporal. He is a patrol officer.

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WBIN-TV sets sights on larger audience for Children’s Auction

LACONIA — WBIN-TV will be broadcasting live from the LNH Children’s Auction for four days next month, running a segment from noon to 2 p.m. on each of the first four days of the auction.

Executives of the station, whose news operation is located at the former Walker School in Concord, held a Skype discussion yesterday afternoon with members of the board of directors of Lakes Region Public Access TV, which will be broadcasting the entire auction live from Dec. 9-13.

Robb Atkinson, WBIN news director and Lee Kinberg, executive vice president of NH 1 News Network, said that the station will be running commercial-free segments on the auction with the goal of helping it reach a larger viewership.

‘’Our goal is to make it bigger than it was and to help more kids,’’ said Atkinson, who said that correspondents Charlie Sherman and Jenna Abate will be talking to people and telling stories about what the auction has accomplished in the past as part of its coverage.

The executives also said that the live show will expand the viewership to the Concord area, where people could drop off auction items at the NH 1 studio there.

They said WBIN-TV already has an hour special program planned for the Thanksgiving period about the auction, which raised $510,801 last year, and plans a wrap up around Christmas time on this year’s auction.

Nancy LeRoy of Laconia, a board member of LRPA-TV, asked ‘’Is all the money staying in the Lakes Region?’’ which prompted the WBIN executives to say, ‘’What we raise will be distributed in the areas of the most need’’ and that they wouldn’t mind seeing the Boys and Girls Club of Concord or the Friendly Kitchen, also in Concord, receiving funds.

When LeRoy pointed out that historically the auction funds have been disbursed in the Lakes Region, the executives said that NH 1 has nothing to do with where the money goes. Those decisions rest with the executive board of the auction, which was started on WLNH radio in 1982 by Warren Bailey.

The radio station is now owned by Binnie Media and broadcasts from the NH 1 bureau which is located in the former Laconia police station on Church Street,

Dale Eddy, chairman of the LRPA’s board of directors, enthused ‘’this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’’

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County Commission to Pursue Appeal

LACONIA — After consulting with legal counsel, the Belknap County Commissioners yesterday agreed to pursue their appeal to the state Supreme Court of the ruling by the Belknap County Convention's Personnel Committee that reversed the commissioners' decision to terminate County Nursing Home Administrator Dennis Logue.

After being fired by the commissioners in September, Logue appealed to the Personnel Committee, consisting of Reps. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith), who chairs the convention, Bob Greemore (R-Meredith), the vice-chairman, and Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), the clerk. Following a daylong hearing, the committee unanimously voted to overturn the decision of the commission. The commission, in turn, promptly placed Logue on administrative leave with pay, and asked the committee to rehear the case. When the committee refused, the commission indicated it would appeal.

In the meantime, two of the sitting commissioners — Ed Philpot a Laconia Democrat, and John Thomas a Belmont Republican — were replaced at the general election. Dave DeVoy of Sanbornton succeeded Philpot, who chose not to seek re-election, and Burchell defeated Thomas in the primary.

Little more than a week after the election DeVoy and Burchell, who together will represent a majority of the commission when they take office in January, issued a joint statement announcing that they would withdraw the appeal of the Personnel Committee's decision. "It is counter-productive, in our view, to spend time and the public purse on a course of action which has been repudiated by the voters,'' the two commissioners-elect wrote in a letter published in the Daily Sun.

The newly elected commission — DeVoy, Burchell and incumbent Steve Nedeau of Meredith — would have to take a positive vote to withdraw the appeal. But, Burchell was a member of the Personnel Committee who voted to reinstate Logue. That is to say, he was party to the decision under appeal and could be deemed to have a conflict of interest in voting to withdraw the appeal. Without Burchell's vote a motion to withdraw the appeal would fail for want of a majority.

Burchell said yesterday, "My instinct is that I would not have a conflict of interest," but added, "I haven't studied it and I would seek independent legal counsel. I wouldn't want to lose the power to do one job," he continued, "because I exercised the power to do another job."

Burchell said that he looked forward to "working toward solutions rather than be mired in legal actions."


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