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January 15. 2013 9:05PM

Police line up, seek Manchester aldermen's resignation

MANCHESTER — City police officers lined up at a Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting Tuesday to call for Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur to resign, accusing him of disparaging the reputation of the force.
Among those who addressed aldermen during the public comment period was Officer Daniel Doherty, who was nearly shot to death in the line of duty last March.
"He made a remark that the police were an embarrassment," Doherty said outside the City Hall chamber, referring to Levasseur. "I took that personally. He's talking about the force that I almost gave the ultimate sacrifice for 10 months ago."
Doherty's appearance before the aldermen came one day after his assailant, Myles Webster, was sentenced to 60 years to life in prison.
The aldermen did not take action on the call for Levasseur to step down, nor did he respond to the comments during the meeting.
Mayor Ted Gatsas did address the matter near the end of the meeting.
"I'll apologize, because I think every one of you do a great job, if any of you have been offended in any way," he said. "I can tell you I respect the police department and every officer. I respect the chief.
We may not always agree, but if ever in a bind, he'll be there for every citizen of Manchester."
The dispute between Levasseur and the police first flared at an aldermen's meeting in December, when the alderman criticized Police Chief David Mara's handling of the naming of the new police station.
The building was named after Officer Michael Briggs, who was killed in the line of duty in 2006. Levasseur expressed the view that the choice did not show respect to the memory of Ralph Miller, an officer killed in 1976 and the namesake for the old Chestnut Street station.
Levasseur charged that a police officer in the audience at the December meeting behaved in an intimidating way toward him; he called on Mara to provide his name so he could lodge a complaint. In an email to Mara forwarded to the media, Levasseur wrote: "Who knows how far his hatred for me has pervaded throughout your department or will after he talks to more officers? We all know how hot headed a particular group of officers are as the reputation of your officers has been well established."
The person Levasseur had referred to was in fact a dispatcher for the police, not an officer.
Officer Steven Maloney, the president of the Manchester Patrolman's Association, then wrote a letter to aldermen calling on Levasseur to apologize for "smearing the reputation" of the police.
At Tuesday's meeting, Maloney said Levasseur should either be asked to resign, voluntarily step down or recuse himself from votes concerning the police.
During the public comment period, the aldermanic chamber was filled with police officers, and they applauded the comments of Doherty and others who spoke.
Maloney also said at Tuesday's meeting that Levasseur, on his Manchester cable access show, referred to the police as "buffoons and idiots."
After Tuesday's meeting, Levasseur said he was upset that the issue escalated to the point it had, and that he would issue an apology.
"I will apologize for this misunderstanding to the police of Manchester. I don't have any personal animosity toward them," he said.
But Levasseur reiterated the charge that Mara could have ended the controversy by identifying the person at the December meeting.
He added that he had no intention of stepping down.
"I'll resign when the chief moves back to Manchester," Levasseur said.
 
tsiefer@unionleader.com


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