Tomorrow, selectmen in Weare will appoint a new police chief, John Velleca of the New Haven, Conn., police department. Has the town finally found the man to turn around this troubled department?
The Weare PD has gone through three chiefs in the last 15 years. Chief Edward Tuthill retired amid an investigation into officers drinking on the job. He was replaced by Myles Rigney, who was accused by secretary Sherry Dunham (a former Union Leader correspondent) of sexual harrassment. Rigney was placed on administrative leave, and Dunham eventually reached a financial settlement with the town. Rigney opted not to run for chief when the position was switched from appointed to elected.
Rigney was replaced by Gregory Begin, who stepped down in June. Former Weare Sgt. Louis Chatel accused Begin and Lt. James Carney, second in command, of making false child pornography allegations against him. Chatel was cleared of the allegations.
Carney also had been put on paid administrative leave over accusations that he got into fights with civilians and fellow officers, transported alcohol in police cars and had an inappropriate relationship with a department employee. He retired this past summer.
Amid all of this drama, Weare officers questionably arrested three people for "wiretapping" for recording traffic stops. The three are suing in federal court. And on Aug. 14, Weare officers shot to death a fleeing suspected drug dealer during a sting operation.
To put it mildly, Velleca will take over a department steeped in turmoil. Rebuilding its reputation will not be easy. We share the hope of many in town that Velleca is not the latest in a line of troubled chiefs, but the first in a new line of exemplary ones.