Stories of the Year: No. 4, Weare Police Department erupts in chaos after new chief resigns

Last modified: 12/30/2014 1:59:01 PM
The year started with such promise for John Velleca. The Connecticut native had only just arrived in Weare to take over its embattled police department, and already he was making strides. Overtime expenses were down, dangerous patrol practices had been abandoned, officers began wearing body cameras for enhanced accountability. The community threw its support behind what seemed like a determined new chief with zero tolerance for malfeasance.

Then it all fell apart.

In September, Velleca’s secretary accused him of assaulting her following an extramarital affair. She took out a restraining order. Velleca flatly denied the claims. Both were immediately placed on paid administrative leave.

State investigators got to work. On Oct. 16, they issued a scathing seven-page report that showed no clear crimes but several potentially malicious acts. Among other things, Velleca had taken the secretary’s work phone to an Apple store in Nashua and had its memory wiped clean.

That same day, Velleca, who had taken refuge in Connecticut, where his wife and young child still lived, acknowledged the affair and tendered his resignation. The secretary remained on leave.

The scandal erupted during an especially unsteady time for the department. Town officials had just offered a contentious former sergeant his job back, and an arbitrator directed them to reinstate another whom Velleca had fired when he first arrived. Young officers began leaving for other positions.

The town is still struggling to rebound. Deputy Chief Sean Kelley seems to have stopped the bleeding and is optimistic that the tiny department can soon become accredited, a rigorous standard that few achieve. Town officials have yet to find a permanent replacement for Velleca, but they have brought taxpayers into the discussion about how to go about that.

In the end, Velleca’s outgoing words may have the most relevance.

“The Weare Police Department must continue its positive progress forward as it continues to bring the upmost professionalism to its mission to protect Weare residents and administer justice in an even handed manner,” he said in a statement Oct. 16. “My continued presence as part of the Department is a distraction from that mission.”

Jeremy Blackman




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