Hooksett police add to force
After a troubled year of low morale and lean staffing, the Hooksett Police Department is on an apparent turnaround, at least in terms of personnel, with another out-of-town hire made Monday and three promotions on the way.
Former Bow Police Officer Justin Sargent was sworn in by Capt. Jon Daigle in a brief ceremony Monday evening attended by Sargent's wife, Lori, the police commission, and members of the department.
"I've been a police officer for about six years," said Sargent. "I worked over in Bow. Obviously we're neighbors with Hooksett and over the years I've kept an eye on the department, and it looks like it's heading in the right direction. I'm excited to work here."
Sargent was encouraged to apply by a former co-worker who had made the move to Hooksett.
"I felt like there was good communication in the department, just speaking to my friend that worked here I knew a lot of what was going on. From where I'm coming from, it's a bigger department, there's more opportunities, more things that I can do here as a police officer to grow."
For interim police manager Thomas Burke, who was hired in October to serve as a temporary civilian administrator for the department, Sargent's perspective and move is a sign of a revitalized department.
"I just think it's a testament to the way the organization is moving," said Burke. "We're attracting well-qualified, certified police officers, well-educated and seasoned officers. I think there's a lot of pull factors going on right now here in Hooksett."
The hiring comes as part of a string of staffing moves within the department. In October, the department hired Valerie Xenakis in a lateral transfer (meaning her position and pay remained as they were) from the Pembroke Police Department, and promoted Jake Robie to sergeant. Next week, the department will make three internal promotions: one to sergeant and two to detective.
"The commission has been supportive of trying to get us to a point in staffing, which we were short of. We're almost at that point," said Burke. "Everything is going really well. Morale is at a very high point right now, and Capt. Daigle has been working with me fantastically. He's been absolutely wonderful during this whole process."
The staffing news many are waiting for, and have been for over a year, however, is still in the works: the hiring of a new police chief.
Burke, who was charged by the police commission to lead the search, began advertising for the position in early November with an application deadline of Nov. 28. Burke had earlier intimated he intended to have the position filled by the first of the year, and on Monday, he expressed confidence that the date would be met.
"We're moving on it," said Burke. "We've had some very qualified individuals that have applied. I think what I present to the commission will be all very high caliber, all with extensive training and high academic degrees. . I'm sure we're going to find somebody who will fit in very nicely."
Hooksett has been without a permanent police chief since Stephen Agrafiotis was suspended in September of 2011 after being accused of violating town budget laws. He resigned in February of this year. Agrafiotis' suspension was overturned by a superior court judge in August.