FREMONT — An inmate trusty being investigated in connection with a reported break-in at the East Kingston Police Department was also performing maintenance work at the Fremont Police Department.
Acting Fremont Police Chief Denny Wood said his department experienced no problems with the trusty when he worked under close supervision at the Fremont Safety Complex.
However, Fremont had stopped using trusties from the Rockingham County jail for a period of time last year when a different trusty was suspected of using drugs.
Many of the details surrounding the incident in East Kingston haven’t been released, but Rockingham County Sheriff Michael Downing confirmed this week that his office was asked by the County Attorney’s Office to investigate a burglary in May at the East Kingston police station.
The probe began when the trusty returned to the jail after his work and was found with “prohibited items.” Downing would not confirm the type of items discovered or from where at the police department they may have been stolen.
Trusties are non-violent inmates who are trusted to perform work outside the jail during the day. The program saves money for the Rockingham County Nursing Home and the police departments that use them for landscaping and other maintenance work.
But the program has come under fire since the East Kingston incident and prompted calls for a review of how the trusties are supervised.
Jail Superintendent Stephen Church has not returned phone calls this week seeking comment on the trusty incident and the investigation.
Wood said the same trusty worked at the Fremont station for four to six hours a day three days a week.
“In light of the information that I learned about the East Kingston incident I reviewed with my staff the job performance of the trusty and I noted there were no problems with him,” he said.
But that wasn’t the case with another trusty in early 2012.
According to Wood, the Fremont Police Department suspended use of the program after a police sergeant discovered a trusty in a back room who appeared incoherent, sweaty and lethargic.
When he asked the trusty what was wrong, he explained that he had just come inside from the heat, Wood said.
The sergeant followed up and believed he was under the influence of heroin, Wood said, but police never determined how he may have accessed the drug. The trusty was transported to the hospital by ambulance.
“It’s very easy to have friends on the outside. A friend can come through at 1 a.m. and leave a stash of whatever it is under a rock or something else,” Wood said.
Following the incident, former Fremont Police Chief Neal Janvrin stopped using trusties, but Wood reinstituted the program after he was appointed acting chief in October.
“In my opinion, the program, if run with close supervision, is an asset. We don’t have to hire a janitorial staff,” Wood said. “The program itself is worth it, but it only works if there’s close supervision.”