August 13. 2013 8:01PM

After chief scandal, New London police improve recording system

Union Leader Correspondent

NEW LONDON — In the wake of a March 6 incident in which former police chief David Seastrand is accused of making inappropriate remarks to a Colby-Sawyer College student he arrested, the police department has installed and upgraded its audio-video recording system.

Seastrand resigned on April 4 as part of a negotiated agreement with the Attorney General’s Office following an accusation by 18-year-old Janelle Westfall of Alexandria that Seastrand asked her to pose nude for photos in exchange for having her charges dropped.

Westfall was arrested for underage alcohol possession and giving a false name to police. She claims Seastrand called her a few days after her arrest arraignment and made the request during a meeting between the two at the police station.

After the accusation was made public, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said her office received calls from “several” women regarding Seastrand’s conduct as police chief.

Young has not released details of the other complaints.

“The investigation is continuing,” she said Monday. “An investigation like this can take a long period.”

Police Chief Ed Andersen said that when he became chief after Seastrand resigned, he saw a need to improve the department’s recording system. There was no audio or video of the interaction between Seastrand and Westfall, he said, because the department lacked complete audio-video coverage and needed to add new equipment to cover all the department’s rooms 24 hours a day, he said.

Prior to the June upgrade, the department had 28 cameras in the building, but only 16 could operate at one time, he said. The booking and interview rooms were previously not monitored continuously, he said.

The department requested the money to pay for the camera system upgrades, about $15,000, and the request was granted, with the money coming from town operating funds, he said. The upgrades were performed earlier this summer.

Also added for an additional $10,000 were cameras for the town’s three primary police cruisers.

“It should have been done long before I came on as chief, but I saw a need for it and the town agreed,” Andersen said. “Other police departments do it; we needed to do it.”

“It’s not just because of (the alleged incident involving Seastrand and Westfall), but that did bring to light the need to record everything, to bring more of a sense of security to everything we do.”

Meanwhile, Westfall has accepted a place in a state pretrial diversion program that could allow her to avoid trial on her charges. Her lawyer, Richard Lehmann of Concord, said she will file a civil suit against Seastrand after the state announces its findings in the case.