Editorial: This time, Weare has to get it right

Last modified: 10/24/2014 1:37:36 AM
There are no simple fixes for the crisis at the Weare Police Department. Events of the last two years – the shooting death of an unarmed drug suspect, staff departures and potential returns, the ill-fated appointment of John Velleca – paint a disturbing picture.

And those are only the things we know about. The town and department have been reluctant to share much with the public or the press. And there are many pressing questions.

Why exactly did former chief Velleca erase the cell phone of his secretary and paramour Jennifer Posteraro? Why, just before Velleca’s resignation, did the department rescind the firing of Joseph Kelley, the sergeant responsible for the drug bust that ended in Alex Cora DeJesus’s death? Who will be the town’s next police chief, and how will he or she be screened? How will embarrassments like these be prevented in the future?

Without knowing the answers to these concerns, onlookers are left to draw their own conclusions. And they aren’t flattering to the town of Weare or its police force. Conspiracy-minded onlookers might assume that unflattering facts are being hidden. Cynical onlookers might assume that basic competence is lacking. Fatalists might think it’s both. Absent dialogue or explanations about what went wrong and why, town officials risk losing public support. That is a truly dangerous thing for a police department.

What’s required now is radical transparency. What’s required now is honesty. What’s required now is concern for the truth, not closed-door meetings or legalistic attempts to deflect liability.

The entire story of Velleca’s tenure should be explained. The decision to hire him despite his role as a defendant in three federal lawsuits must be clarified. The former chief was alleged to have a long history of discrimination based on ethnicity and gender, but his hiring went forward regardless. For that matter, why did Posteraro receive a promotion and a $6-an-hour raise in May? The secretary is now on leave, so what will become of her job in the department? Again, without information, it is easy to make assumptions.

Transparency won’t actually fix the Weare Police Department’s problems. That will take a dedicated effort by those with the power to effect change, and the town’s experience should prove that it won’t be as simple as hiring one man. A townwide rethinking of policies and attitudes is needed, as well as clear hiring guidelines for those who hope to lead the police force.

But an open process and honest communication will allow for the rebuilding of trust to begin. That’s the necessary first step for what promises to be a lengthy journey.


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