To The Daily Sun,
Laconia has four volunteers for the office of Police Commissioner.
The City Charter, Article X Sect. 10:01 governs who, how, and for how long a commissioner's term is. Clearly, it a good time to refresh candidate and voters exactly what the duties and powers the Police Commission has.
Historically, Police Commissions, over time. have mistakenly expanded the commission's roll to one of department head, above the Chief of Police i.e., assuming the authority to create the annual budget encompassing all of the Police Department's individual line items. In addition, commissions' have been involved with law enforcement procedure and policy.
First, the budget organizational chart (Page 80) lists the commission as head of the department, which it is not. Section 10:02 clearly states the: "It shall be the duties of said police commissioners to appoint such police officers, constables and superior officer, as they may in their judgement deem necessary, and to fix their compensation."
(Neither) the commission nor a commissioner may order, direct, suggest or advise the police chief regarding enforcement powers granted by the New Hampshire Legislature nor related enforcement policy. In fact; other than appoint, discipline, terminate and set compensation, the power to appropriate money for building, vehicle, guns, ammunition, radios, phone, computer electronic equipment and such devices, administrative clerks, janitorial services, department revenues, grants and other sources of income are under control of the city manager and City Council.
Second, Section 10:05 clearly states, "The Police Commissioners shall have full authority to remove any officer at any time for just cause and after due hearing, which cause shall be specified in the order or removal." Note: this is also embraced by RSA 91-A, the Right-to-Know law.
All contracts executed by the Police Commission shall contain a signature line for each commissioner and should be followed by a provision reading substantially as follows, "approved by vote of the Police Commission on (date)." The city manager and council have no veto powers regarding personnel policy, rules compensation or labor agreements. The feel good PR authentication vote is a violation of Section 10:02, interference. The council's power rests with its appropriation or supplemental appropriations powers. The manager and or council must approve all line item inter or intra-departmental transfers of unencumbered funds.
The City Council is under no legal mandate to fund Police Department compensation line items in the budget. The line items of department employees appointed by the commission contractually or otherwise, utilized by the chief of police in the creation of a proposed budget, to wit proposed by the city manager, is not a mandated amount based on number of officers or administrative positions but in fact the number of employee is based on the appropriation amount established by the City Council.
Therefore, why have commission meetings, over the years, become what some may interpret as exceeding its authority by discussing law enforcement areas of criminal activities, traffic or ordinances? Hopefully, when the two newly elected commissioners will read the law and Charter; understand the limited authority of the office as empowered by the legislature is over personnel. They have no control over law enforcement or equipment. As a commissioner they only appoint, set policy and compensation regarding appointed employees. Personnel issue(s) shall be non-public unless the employee requests a public meeting.
Thomas A. Tardif
- Category: Letters
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