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December 06. 2012 12:55AM

Manchester police station name upsets another slain officer's family

MANCHESTER - The family of slain Manchester Police Officer Ralph Miller was surprised and saddened Wednesday to learn that city officials will not include Miller in the name of the new police station that will soon open on Valley Street, Miller's brother said.

Arthur Miller, whose brother was shot to death in 1976 when answering a noise complaint, said the family didn't know about the plans until reading about it in the New Hampshire Union Leader on Wednesday. The current combination police-fire station is named after Miller, and Police Chief David Mara stressed it will retain its name after police move to the new station.

On Tuesday, aldermen decided by voice vote to name the new station after Michael Briggs, the police officer killed in 2006 while answering a call about gunshots in the center city.

"Once you establish a memorial for someone, it's so wrong to take someone's name off it and erase the memory of him," Miller told the Union Leader on Wednesday. He said his father, who lives in Suncook, called to tell him of the decision after reading about it in the newspaper. He called the decision wrong.

But Police Chief David Mara, who proposed naming the new station after Briggs, said a memorial marker honoring Miller, located on the Merrimack Street side of the current safety complex, will remain in place. And the complex, which includes the fire department, will retain Miller's name.

Mara said his officers and the community are grieving over the death of Briggs.

"Just like Ralph Miller and his family had that opportunity to be honored, it's Michael Briggs' turn to be honored," Mara said. Mara said Miller, Briggs and other Manchester officers who died in the line of duty will be recognized in the lobby of the new station. The roll call room will be named after Miller.

Miller stressed that he believes Briggs should be honored, and he has no problem with a suggestion, made by Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur, that the building be named after both Briggs and his brother.

"I just don't think they should forget the name of a person who gave his life for the city," Miller said. He also said he met with Mayor Ted Gatsas earlier this year, and Gatsas told him the new station would retain the Miller name. Gatsas said that is not the case; Miller asked to be named to the Police Commission, but there was no discussion about the name of the new station.

Gatsas said aldermen discussed the issue for about a half-hour before voting on the Briggs name.

"The board took a vote," Gatsas said, "and that's what's moving forward."

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Mark Hayward may be reached at mhayward@unionleader.com.


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