Editorial: Seastrand details make case’s outcome more disturbing still
One of the women who now accuses former New London police chief David Seastrand of inappropriate behavior in 2011 explains her reluctance to initially come forward like this: It would have been her word against the word of a police officer. “So,” she told a state investigator, “I just dropped it.”
It should be the job of the attorney general’s office, the highest law enforcement agency in the state, to disabuse the public of such thinking. A cop’s word should carry no more weight than a private citizen’s in such a case. But, in fact, the state’s actions in the case of Seastrand have done much to foster the terrible notion that the police can, in fact, get away with bad behavior at the expense of the public.
Seastrand made a deal with the state last spring that he would resign as chief and forfeit his police certification. The agreement came after he was accused by a Colby-Sawyer College student of offering to drop charges of underage drinking against her if she would pose nude for photographs. The chief didn’t face criminal charges, and the state closed its investigation.
Right after that, however, three more women came forward with similar complaints. One woman said she’d had sexual contact with Seastrand while he was police chief. The second said Seastrand had paid a speeding ticket for her – in exchange for her posing in lingerie. The third said he had offered her money in exchange for photographs of her – an offer she rejected.
This week Monitor reporter Jeremy Blackman reported on the disturbing details of those cases after the state released a cache of investigative documents.
Rather than comfort the public that the state was right in treating Seastrand as it did – taking away his job but not prosecuting him – the files create a terrible impression: that when police officers use the power of their office to intimidate the public, the state does not have our back.
What all the cases seem to have in common is this: Seastrand is accused of using the power and the props of his office – his uniform, his badge, his police vehicle – to intimidate or take advantage of women in vulnerable spots. The state determined that Seastrand’s behavior was conducted “in his personal capacity, and did not purport to be acts of his office,” but after reading the details of the incidents in question, that determination remains difficult to understand.
Is there no difference between a run-of-the-mill lecherous stranger and a cop in uniform making unwelcome advances? Of course there is. Does not his very identity as a chief color the reaction of his alleged victims? Of course it does.
It is the initial case – the one involving the Colby-Sawyer student – that seems to most cry out for prosecution. In his role as police chief, he is accused of offered the young woman a sexual quid pro quo.
Was the case against him a slam-dunk? Prosecutors determined it was not – although Seastrand’s quick acquiescence to the deal he struck seems to lend credibility to the woman’s account. But when the alleged perpetrator is a police chief – a man granted by the community immense power over the rest of us – the state has a responsibility to try, a responsibility to show the public that cops won’t get off easy just because they’re cops.
The more we learn about the Seastrand case, the more distressing the outcome.