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January 07. 2013 12:24AM

Hooksett's new police chief 'looking forward'

HOOKSETT - As he steps into a police department with a complicated history, Hooksett's recently appointed chief - former Manchester police lieutenant and Derry resident Peter Bartlett - said he is "looking forward."

"Every department wants to be the best of the best," said Bartlett, who was appointed by the Hooksett Police Commission on Dec. 21. "You get there by having quality workers doing quality police work, providing the best services they can to the community that they serve."

The town's prior chief, Stephen Agrafiotis, resigned in February 2012 after being suspended in September of the previous year, having been accused of a budget law violation of which he was later acquitted. In November 2011, a consulting firm, Public Safety Strategies Group, released an audit of the department which found poor morale, a fickle and arbitrary disciplinary system, little communication and a lack of employee trust.

"The culture of the agency wasn't flourishing," Bartlett said. "To rebuild that culture, and to rebuild that communication and to have an open-door policy is going to be one of my top priorities [and] you build [morale and trust] with leadership, with communication. You have to work with one another, and you have to know that you're all working toward the common good, the common goal."

No-confidence vote

Agrafiotis was known to have a contentious relationship with the town council and the current police commission. Bartlett said he hopes to engage with the town and its government.

"Engaging is part of the job," he said. "The folks that are elected to the council have constituents that they have to service. As the chief of police, I also have to service their constituents. So yeah, we're going to have to work together, and that's my goal. I want to work with those folks, and I'm hoping that they're going to want to work with me as well."

The town's Police Commission earned a no-confidence vote last September, followed by a letter presented to the Town Council which claimed to represent the opinions of "the vast majority of HPD employees" accusing the commission of "hindering" officers and staff from performing their jobs. Specifically, the statement referenced delays in necessary promotions and the payment of vendors, the slowing of day-to-day business for the commission's insistence on approving all expenditures, and employees being "left hanging" on questions of pay and benefits.

Bartlett said he hopes any lingering concerns will be brought to him during his day-one sit-downs with department employees.

"Hopefully, if they feel that they can be up-front and honest about the issues that they brought to the town council, then we can work on that," he said. "Obviously, if they drafted a letter and had a spokesperson bring it before the town council, they feel strongly about it, so I want to know. I want to know what [their concerns] are, and I want to see if we can make it better. I'm always going to be open to those kinds of conversations."

Social media and more

Bartlett spoke about the prospect of making greater use of social media, including the creation of a department blog to report arrests and criminal activity.

Updating the department's Computer Aided Dispatch and Record Management System (CADRMS) is another short-term priority of Bartlett's, particularly in the areas of map and data analysis, allowing the department to collect and share statistics on police activity and criminal incidents.

"I think it's important to the community to know what we have for department statistics, and it's also a great tool for the deployment of resources," Bartlett said. "In order to deploy services appropriately, we need to know that we're using our resources efficiently.

Bartlett, a 24-year veteran of the Manchester Police Department whose interest in law enforcement was initially sparked through talking with officers on their shifts as part-timers with his brothers' alarm company, wasn't always on course for law enforcement. He had initially hoped to be a music teacher. According to Bartlett, however, he hasn't played his trumpet in years.

"Before all of that, I wanted to play music, play in a jazz band," he said. "It's funny how life happens."

bclogston@unionleader.com

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