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Weare fires police Sgt. Joseph Kelley

Union Leader Correspondent

November 27. 2013 11:04AM

WEARE - Sgt. Joseph Kelley, one of three sergeants in the Weare Police Department, who has been out on a leave of absence, was fired by selectmen last week.

According to Police Chief John Velleca, who took the reins in Weare on Nov. 1, Kelley was fired upon his recommendation. The board voted to terminate Kelley Nov. 18 and notified Kelley in writing on Nov. 21.

Velleca refused to offer details about Kelley's termination, stating only that the sergeant violated department policies and procedures.

"Any punitive action we take against officers is intended to correct behavior or to correct inefficient operations, not to embarrass the officers," said Velleca. "I'm going to refrain from discussing the investigation of Joe Kelley."

Kelley is the third high-ranking officer to leave the Weare force this year. Chief Gregory Begin retired in May, and Lt. James Carney retired in July. Both men were the subject of various complaints and lawsuits throughout their terms on the department, and Carney was on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the board of selectmen into alleged misconduct. Several civil rights cases involving Begin and Carney have been filed by people arrested for recording traffic stops and are pending in federal court.

The department is also under investigation by the state Attorney General's Office for an officer-involved shooting Aug. 14 that resulted in the death of a suspected heroin dealer, Alex Cora DeJesus, 35, at a Weare shopping plaza during some type of undercover drug operation that also involved confidential informants. To date, none of the names of the officers involved in that case have been made public.

With Kelley gone, Velleca's immediate challenge is to bring new officers on board to fill the department's roster. The chief, who came to Weare after a career in New Haven, Conn., said he recently hired two officers: Ryan Frisbee, a rookie whose first job as a cop will be in Weare, and Barry Charest, who has been a part-timer in Weare for three months and served in the military.

"We still have two more full-time spots to fill," Velleca said. But the chief isn't looking for part-time officers and said under his leadership he'll be moving toward a department staffed by full-timers.

"Part-time officers can only be committed to the department part-time," he said. "We need officers who are fully committed to the Weare Police Department."

Long term, Velleca said his biggest obstacle and his primary goal is to improve the police department's reputation among both the residents of town and within the law enforcement community, and to eliminate the sense of fear many folks in Weare seem to have of their local police force.

"I believe that the core of officers here are outstanding," said Velleca. "I think people are going to be surprised by what they see from the Weare Police Department in the future."

To that end, Velleca said he is working to ensure that his officers have the kind of leadership necessary to make the community feel safe.

"I enjoy helping people who want to be good, honest police officers, and just need direction," Velleca said. "We all need direction."

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