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December 28. 2012 10:11PM

Hooksett chief praises officers for aiding town in transition

HOOKSETT - With a new police chief coming on early next year, the man who led the search, Interim Police Manager Thomas Burke, is on his way out.

In his final official act, Burke will present letters of commendation to Capt. Jon Daigle and Lt. Michael Labrecque.

"They've been absolutely positive and marvelous throughout my 12 weeks here," he said. "They stood tall. They've kept the ship afloat."

Daigle had served as the interim chief for 13 months after the town's controversial former chief, Stephen Agrafiotis, was placed on administrative leave in September, 2011, and resigned in February. For much of the summer, Daigle was a favorite for the chief position, credited with increases in morale and the health of department's culture.

In August, however, Daigle submitted a letter to the Police Commission asking to be relieved of the acting-chief position and to be returned to his duties as captain. It also asked that he be taken out of consideration for the position of chief.

In October, the Police Commission picked Burke, a retired 31-year police veteran and current deputy sheriff, as interim police manager, to serve as a temporary civilian administrator and "officer mentor" while the police commission searched for a permanent chief.

He instituted a number of internal promotions, hires, and transfers, and implemented a consulting team's recommendations for improved communication and moral.

Burke also led the search for police chief, a position Hooksett left vacant for 15 months after Agrafiotis' departure. On Dec. 21, the commission announced the hiring of Peter Bartlett, formerly a lieutenant with the Manchester department.

A controversy in the early days of Burke's tenure had some fearing that the department faced further problems. In October, officials from Lyndeborough, where Burke had previously worked, released documents from a Justice Department report on an incident between Burke and a selectman in 2011. Hooksett officials and residents became aware of these documents in the days after Burke's hiring, and tensions flared, particularly between members of the Town Council and Police Commission.

The Union Leader later acquired the full report. It said Burke had been conducting an investigation of Lyndeborough Selectman Donald Sawin for three incidents he believed constituted criminal wrongdoing. When he confronted Sawin, Burke reportedly said that if he resigned from the board, the incidents would no longer be an issue. Sawin later said he felt pressured to resign on threat of arrest.

bclogston@newstote.com

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