New London police chief Seastrand resigns following nude photo allegations
New London’s police chief has resigned amid accusations he attempted to pressure a Colby-Sawyer College student who had been arrested to pose for nude photographs in exchange for the charges against her being dropped.
David Seastrand, a 27-year veteran of the department, resigned effective immediately yesterday and agreed to relinquish his certification as a police officer, according to the New Hampshire attorney general’s office. As a result, no criminal charges will be pursued.
The deal came three days after Seastrand suddenly announced his plans to retire, telling the selectmen he would stay at his job through the end of the month. At that time, Seastrand had been under investigation for nearly a month. The woman reported the inappropriate offer to the attorney general’s office March 6.
Richard Lehmann, the woman’s lawyer, said the incident happened three days after she was charged with underage drinking and giving a false name to the police. Lehmann said Seastrand asked her to come to the police department, then harassed her for three hours.
“There was an extended attempt to bargain away her criminal charges in exchange for her allowing herself to be photographed naked,” Lehmann said. “Obviously she refused.”
The woman called the attorney general’s office that day. After an investigation, Seastrand and the office reached their agreement yesterday, according to Associate Attorney General Jane Young.
Young said the office decided to take the route after considering several factors, including the charges filed against the woman and the fact that she and Seastrand were the only two people in the police station when the incident is said to have occurred.
“This led us to a swift conclusion that he was removed from his position and ensured he would never be a police officer again,” she said.
When asked whether Seastrand admitted to the allegations, Young took a long pause.
“I’m not going to answer that question,” she said.
Seastrand could not be reached last night.
Lehmann said the woman, who is considering lawsuits against both the former chief and the town, would have liked to have seen criminal charges against Seastrand but appreciated a quick resolution.
“She’s had to live in town, continue going to school in town, knowing this was pending all this time,” he said. “And that’s caused her a great deal of stress and interfered with her life.”
It’s unclear how long town officials have known about the investigation.
The Monitor called Selectman Peter Bianchi on Tuesday after receiving an anonymous tip about Seastrand being involved in sexual misconduct. Bianchi said then that he wasn’t aware of the allegation or an investigation.
Shortly after the attorney general’s office made its announcement yesterday, Bianchi echoed that sentiment with shock, saying the attorney general’s office hadn’t told the town about the investigation.
The town administrator, however, said she did notify the selectmen about an investigation a few weeks ago. Kimberly Hallquist said she was told about the attorney general’s inquiry by Seastrand on March 13, though he didn’t disclose what they were investigating.
Hallquist stressed that the town only found out about the nature of the complaint yesterday.
Last night Bianchi denied that Hallquist had told him about the investigation. He said he first heard a rumor about it about sometime last week.
The selectman said he’s frustrated with the attorney general’s office because it didn’t notify the town. But he withheld any criticism of Seastrand.
“What did he know? When did he know? I don’t know,” Bianchi said. “I have no comment on that because I just don’t know.”
Bianchi said he met with Seastrand at a brief emergency meeting yesterday where the selectmen accepted his resignation and appointed Ed Anderson, a longtime member of the police department, as acting chief. Bianchi called the meeting “emotional” but said Seastrand didn’t talk about the allegation, and he didn’t ask.
“I’m standing by my chief at this point in time. I’m standing by him,” he said. “My only feeling is, probably, I know one quarter of what there is to know. I feel very much out of the loop. . . . It’s awful hard to accept if it’s true.”
Seastrand has been the department’s chief since 1995.
Since that time, he’s been known for trying to create a sense of safety and comfort in his community, said former town administrator Jessie Levine. She said that when New London officials debated how much information about crime in town should be made public, Seastrand argued for less.
“He just felt like giving out detailed information didn’t do the public any good, and it didn’t increase their feeling of safety either. . . . It was more important that people perceived that they lived in a good community that was well taken care of and well cared for and that it didn’t really do any service for them to know the details of what goes on behind closed doors or anything that just might rock the boat a little,” said Levine, now Bedford’s town manager.
Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard, a close friend of Seastrand, called the former chief a “professional” yesterday and said he’s always been held in high regard by members of the law enforcement community.
In his retirement letter, Seastrand didn’t indicate a reason for his decision.
“It has been my honor to have worked with so many dedicated individuals throughout the years, that have made this job, and my experiences working here so meaningful,” he wrote.
Hallquist said she’s unsure whether Seastrand will receive his pension but that he will be paid for any unused vacation time. That amount wasn’t available last night.