In Warren, new police chief 'ready to go'
WARREN - The town's police chief, a former restaurant owner with no prior law enforcement background, went to work Saturday night - about 18 months after he was elected and the day after he graduated from the state's police academy.
"I'm ready to go," Police Chief John Semertgakis said after a Town Hall ceremony.
Warren is one of a handful of towns in the state that still elects its police chief.
The previous police chief, Warren Davis, lost his state certification as a police officer in 2010 after an exchange of messages with a 17-year-old girl on Facebook.
In June 2010, selectmen asked the Grafton County Sheriff to investigate Davis, who acknowledged sending Facebook messages to the girl, who answered him only once, saying she felt "uncomfortable" with the exchange.
The investigation did not find evidence to charge Davis criminally, but the state Police Standards and Training Council would not recertify him.
"They never gave us a reason, they just would not certify (Davis)," Selectman Charles Chandler said.
Davis had been elected as the town's police chief each year for 12 years.
As the news of the Davis investigation spread, Semertgakis said several residents approached him about becoming police chief.
Semertgakis moved to town with his wife, a former New Hampshire corrections officer, and their three sons from the Manchester area seven years ago. He has been heavily involved in youth activities, serving as a coach for many of the town's sports teams. He has run restaurants all his life, he said.
"The community needed someone, and they know me," Semertgakis said. "There's still a lot of support for (Davis), but when all was said and done, he was decertified, and the people wanted someone they know doing this job."
At the town meeting in March 2011, despite a recommendation from Chandler that the town switch to an appointed-chief system, residents elected Semertgakis and voted to pay for state training to certify him as a police officer. He graduated from state Police Standards and Training Council training program Friday.
Since Davis was suspended as police chief in 2010, the town has had police coverage from state police and Grafton County police.
"It's going to be really nice to have a local presence again," Chandler said.