Ayotte ad on Briggs case is tasteful and appropriate

Last modified: 8/14/2010 12:00:00 AM
I write to respectfully disagree with the Monitor's Aug. 6 editorial entitled 'Sad to use tragedy for political gain.' New Hampshire's law enforcement community, only second to his family, who are most impacted by the tragic death of Officer Michael Briggs, stand firm behind Republican Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte's decision to tastefully discuss her role in securing a death penalty conviction for Mike's killer. It's difficult to fathom how the Monitor could come to a different conclusion.

Killing a police officer in the line of duty ranks among the most serious crimes an individual can commit. That's why state law specifically allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty for this crime. Ayotte, in her capacity as attorney general, made a decision to seek that penalty - then she prosecuted the case herself. Thanks to Kelly and her team's courtroom expertise and strong commitment to obtaining justice, Mike's killer got the highest penalty under law - justice was done.

The Monitor may disagree with New Hampshire's death penalty statute. But it can't fault Kelly for faithfully doing her job - and doing it with tremendous success.

I know this personally because I worked directly and extensively with Kelly on the Briggs case as the lead investigator. The night Officer Briggs was fatally shot in 2006 was one of the darkest times in the history of our city and state. During this extremely difficult time, our department was in need of strong leadership to see us through.

As I stated in the commercial, 'There was nothing more important, at that moment, than leadership and Kelly exuded it.' Only hours after Mike was shot, Kelly arrived at our department and took charge of the situation. As Maryann Briggs so aptly stated in the commercial, 'She was solid as a rock. Great leader.' Indeed she was, from the very beginning to the very end.

As attorney general, the top law enforcement officer in the state, she could have just sent a member of her staff to represent the attorney general's office. But that wouldn't be in Kelly's nature. She's a hands-on leader who gets involved in the details. Throughout the Briggs murder investigation, I witnessed Kelly's personal commitment, strength of character and fortitude even when her decisions were criticized.

Throughout the trial, I also saw Kelly's strong leadership of the attorney general's office, and I got a clear sense that the employees she managed respected and had total confidence in her. I've worked with the AG's office for years, and I saw countless examples of Kelly's strong management and leadership of that department.

New Hampshire voters are trying to learn as much as they can about the candidates running for U.S. Senate. While the Monitor has been largely silent while hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent falsely attacking Ayotte on TV, the moment her campaign talks positively about her record, the editors find fault. That's quite a double standard. And given the subject matter, this particular editorial was profoundly insulting to the law enforcement community - the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our cities, towns and neighborhoods.

Candidates are well within their rights to make sure voters know about their accomplishments. Kelly's job as attorney general was to vigorously enforce the laws and to seek justice for victims. For the Monitor to write that it's 'sad' for her to highlight the success she had in securing a death penalty conviction for a convicted cop killer reflects thinking that is way outside the mainstream of most New Hampshire citizens.

(Det. Lieutenant Nick Willard is vice president of the Manchester Association of Police Supervisors.)

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