Weare’s new police chief, John D. Velleca, is giving residents reason to reassess the town’s long-troubled police department.
This newspaper reported last week that Weare’s officers are to begin wearing video cameras attached to their chests. The department that gained national attention by confiscating cellphones that were being used to record officers now will have its officers record their every interaction with the public.
When asked whether the policy grew from the town’s two legal settlements — one over a cellphone and one involving a young man shot and killed by a Weare officer — Chief Velleca said, plainly, “Yes, of course it’s because of recent lawsuits settled.”
No trying to dance around the department’s troubles there.
“It’s no secret there has been a problem in the department, and this will give us a chance to identify problems with officers in the field and correct them through discipline or training,” he said. “It’s an early intervention in regard to that.”
Weare has ponied up $357,750 to settle lawsuits generated by the conduct of its police officers. Chief Velleca was hired in part to clean up a department that had been on the receiving end of numerous allegations of corruption and abuse. His straightforward manner of addressing public questions about changes in the department is refreshing.
As for the cameras, they too are a welcome change. Nothing encourages accountability and good behavior quite like being on camera. That is why Carla Gericke was trying to film her friend’s traffic stop in Weare in 2010, which resulted in the town paying her $57,750.
Here is to hoping that the cameras, which will at first be seen as a sort of scarlet letter for past bad deeds, do the job of restoring the department’s reputation by showing that its officers adhere to the highest standards of professional conduct.