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Hooksett taps Manchester PD's Peter Bartlett as new police chief

Union Leader Correspondent

December 21. 2012 9:00PM
Manchester Police Lt. Peter Bartlett has been selected as Hooksett's new chief of police. 

HOOKSETT - After a 15-month vacancy, the town has hired Lt. Peter Bartlett of Manchester as its new police chief.

A statement by the Hooksett Police Commission described the decision as "the beginning of a new era at the Hooksett Police Department and in the town of Hooksett."

Bartlett had been with the Manchester Police Department for 24 years, nine of them in a supervisory or command role, before leaving in 2011, and has been the president of the Manchester Association of Police Supervisors. He will begin his work as Hooksett chief on Jan. 7.

Hooksett had been without a permanent police chief since Stephen Agrafiotis resigned after years of battles with town officials, including the police commission and town council. He was put on administrative leave in September 2011 and then resigned Jan. 31, 2012. The vacancy had been controversial throughout the year, prompting occasional conflicts between the police commission and the town council.

The police commission announced Bartlett's hiring in a special meeting Friday evening.

"The Hooksett Police Department, as I have seen over the past several days, is an agency filled with hardworking, dedicated, proud, professional officers, communications, dispatchers and administrative personnel," Bartlett told the meeting. "I am humbled for this opportunity to work on this team, and I pledge that I will work hard for them. . The men and women in this agency need to have someone work hard for them."

He described himself as "cooperative leader" who attempts to "tap into the talents" of his officers.

"I think my transition with the agency is going to be an easy process. They're very gracious. It's always difficult coming into someone else's house, but the welcome that I've gotten here was great," he said.

"Day one, I'd like to begin the process of meeting one on one with everyone in this agency. I want to listen to what they have to say, and just have a chat with them. I think it's important to have a pulse of the culture that's here."

In the short term, Bartlett has expressed a commitment to complete the work of implementing the recommendations of Public Safety Specialists' Group's 2011 audit of the department. Bartlett spoke specifically of ensuring that personnel had "effective supervision," providing the "tools and training they need to be safe and do the job they need to do."

Communication and transparency were also themes Bartlett touched on, saying several times throughout the night that his "door is always open." He also mentioned updating the police department's website, making better utilization of social media (making specific mention of Facebook, Twitter, and Nixle), and the development of a daily log or blog which would allow the public to see "what our officers are doing on a daily basis" as high priorities.

The commission spoke of Bartlett with high praise, and town officials present expressed enthusiasm for the appointment.

"I am quite confident that Chief Bartlett will earn the trust of the members of the Hooksett Police Department and community," Commissioner Kenneth Scherer said. "I'm also sure that he wouldn't want to have that any other way; he will earn that trust, and that trust and respect will be greatly deserved."

Bartlett's former boss, Manchester Police Chief David Mara, concurred, saying Bartlett was well respected during his time in Manchester. "I think he's a great choice. I think he's just what Hooksett needs."

"From my view, this marks day one, year one, of the future of the Hooksett Police Department," Town Councilor Todd Lizotte said in a statement. "Change leadership is not for the faint at heart, and as we have witnessed, this is truly a transformation. This is a proud moment for Hooksett."

The police commission has not yet announced the compensation Bartlett is to receive, saying it would be "premature" to do so until the town administrator and finance department receive the documents related to his hiring, which was finalized earlier Friday afternoon.

Agrafiotis received $104,623.92 in 2011, along with $1,563.53 in reimbursements and allowances, according to the town finance office. Agrafiotis had been with the department since 1999.

According to Interim Police Manager Thomas Burke, who led the search for the new chief, applications had been received from across the country. Ultimately, however, Burke and the commission decided to stay in-state.

"I think the message here is that I think we have the finest officers in the country right here in our own state," Burke said. "I felt that we should have someone who's familiar with our police philosophy, with no learning curve involved, having a guy that's from New Hampshire, born and bred, having all of his experience in the state I think is a benefit to us."

Bartlett holds a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, and graduated from the New Hampshsire Police Academy as a Certified Officer in 1987. While in Manchester, he was awarded the Chief's Achievement Award and a Meritorious Service Medal.

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