NASHUA - Three months after Mayor Donnalee Lozeau pledged to repair the relations between herself and Police Chief John Seusing, she says the two city leaders are working together and making positive strides. Seusing says they have "a working relationship.''
Last November, Lozeau held her first news conference since taking office, addressing the media and community members about a police department investigation into her and her husband circling around unfounded allegations of bid rigging, drug use and corruption - all of which resulted in no criminal charges.
"Frankly, I don't know that I will ever get over it, but frankly, that is not what this is about," Lozeau told the New Hampshire Sunday News last week. "This is not about how I feel on my personal level, or how I feel my family was treated. This is about (Seusing) is the chief of police in the city of Nashua and I am the mayor, and we have to work together."
Although tension between Lozeau and Seusing began soon after she took office in 2008, monthly meetings between the two had continued until an abrupt halt at the end of last year about the same time Lozeau alleged that the police department's investigation involving her husband - David Lozeau, a former bail commissioner in Nashua - was politically motivated and part of a smear campaign.
Lozeau said the monthly meetings were canceled for a variety of reasons, including scheduling conflicts. She stressed, however, that those meetings have since resumed.
"We are back on track," said Lozeau, adding those frequent gatherings have since resulted in a collaborative effort to bring more of a permanent police presence into the downtown area.
When asked whether their professional relationship has improved since November when she pledged to take the time to repair their working relations, Lozeau said progress is being made.
"I think we are able to work together professionally, and the better we do that, the better for the city," she said. "When I look at the people I work with, I don't look at them as personal friends. I look at them as professional colleagues, and we work toward the same goals." There is never an intention to take those working relationships out of the professional realm, which Lozeau said would be a bad practice.
"I think as long as we work professionally and we are working toward the same goals, that is what our responsibility is," she added. "We are working together." Seusing acknowledged last week that he and Lozeau do not always see eye to eye, but agrees that collaboration is taking place. "We have a working relationship, and the most important thing is that we get the job done," he said.That collaboration was highlighted in Lozeau's annual State of the City address last week, when she publicly praised Seusing for working to add more Main Street patrols.
"As you may know, for several years, it has been one of my greatest objectives to see a return of a police presence in our downtown. I would like to thank Chief Seusing for his efforts in making the necessary staffing adjustments to help us reach that goal," she said in the speech. "Through open communication between myself, the chief of police, Great American Downtown and the Downtown Improvement Committee, I am thrilled to report that a plan has been developed to have a few of Nashua's finest become a regular sight downtown with a permanent police presence on both first and second shifts." According to Lozeau, whose father was once a downtown beat cop in Nashua, two existing offices housed within the Elm Street and High Street parking garages may soon be used as small police substations.
"This is not about downtown not being safe. This is about the downtown area has unique things that happen here, and I think it will give a different quality-of-life feel if people know officer so-and-so is going to be on Main Street, and they know who he is and they know his name," explained Lozeau. This initiative is a positive advancement for the downtown area, according to Lozeau, who said it will enhance the police department's already strong commitment to community policing.
Seusing agrees, saying the permanent police presence has been in place for about a month, and he has received positive feedback about the initiative.
"It is long overdue," said Seusing, adding the department's additional officers and full staffing levels enabled the change to take place. "The mayor and I have talked about this. We have agreed all along, but it was just a matter of figuring out how to do it."
Working the downtown day shift is Officer John Murphy, and working the downtown second shift will be Officers John Yurcak, Dennis Lee and Anthony Murray. While Murphy will be the permanent day shift officer, the second shift will be shared by three officers, although two will typically be on duty together, said Seusing. "They have a lot of ground to cover," he said, explaining the patrolmen - often on bikes - will not only cover Main Street, but also some of the Tree Streets area as well, getting to know residents and merchants. "Having the visibility down there is really important."
It will also make people feel better about the downtown municipal parking garages, said Lozeau, who hopes to have some decals in place to notify pedestrians and motorists that police officers will use those offices when warranted.
The small offices will be an ideal place for patrolmen to lock their bikes, offer relief from the weather or use their computers to access the police system, she said, emphasizing the offices will not be staffed at all times.
"This was a challenge, but the police have really looked closer at it and listened to the people and found some adjustments to create another sector downtown," added Lozeau.