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January 17. 2013 1:43AM

Alderman issues apology to police

MANCHESTER - The city police chief says he supports some of the sentiments expressed by officers at a City Hall meeting Tuesday, but that he was not involved in organizing the demonstration against Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur.

"That's something that was union activity," Police Chief David Mara said Wednesday, referring to the Manchester Patrolman's Association. "It was organized by them. They were there on their own accord."

Officers packed Tuesday's Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting. Several called for Levasseur to resign over statements he made that they said "smeared the reputation" of the force. Levasseur's comments related to intimidating behavior that the alderman alleged was exhibited toward him by an officer at a public meeting last month.

Meanwhile, Levasseur issued an apology to the police department, while he continued to fault Mara for his role in the controversy.

"I would like to personally apologize to the fine police officers who work for the city of Manchester and to those fine officers that take their image and job of protecting our citizens seriously," Levasseur said in a statement Wednesday. "Their job is not one that I would ever sign up for. I sincerely appreciate that there are those who care enough to serve and protect us and I will continue to pray for their safety."

Still, Levasseur said Mara could have headed off the controversy by responding to the initial email he wrote charging that an officer had behaved threateningly toward him. After the email was made public, police officials said the man in question was a dispatcher who was leaving the department, not an officer.

"I am hopeful that Chief Mara will do the right thing and join me in issuing the entire Manchester Police Department an apology for his obvious lack of leadership and his unfortunate role in this matter," Levasseur wrote.

Mara said that the department did initiate an internal investigation in response to Levasseur's allegations. When an officer determined that the person at the meeting was no longer an employee of the Manchester Police Department, it ceased to be a matter for internal affairs, according to the chief.

Mara said Levasseur could have pursued a criminal complaint, but he declined to do so.

While the demonstration at Tuesday's meeting was organized by the patrolmen's union, Mara said he understood why the officers felt the need to speak out.

"Things were said and written about the men and women of the Manchester Police Department that are not true," Mara said. "They are professional and courageous, and they go out every day and do a great job for the city."

Officer Steven Maloney, the president of the patrolmen's union, has charged that Levasseur referred to officers as "idiots" and "buffoons" on his cable access show. The dispute between Levasseur and the police was sparked when the alderman last month criticized Mara's handling of the naming of the new police station.



tsiefer@unionleader.com



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