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Weare selectmen confirm Sean Kelly as police chief

Last modified: 6/10/2015 1:02:52 AM
After weeks of deliberating and negotiating, Weare selectmen have stuck with their original pick to lead an embattled police department.

Selectmen confirmed interim police Chief Sean Kelly as the town’s part-time police chief Monday night. Kelly has led the department since the departure of Chief John Velleca, who left amid a scandal last October. Velleca had taken the reins after a fatal officer-involved shooting the year before.

After two contentious public hearings, town officials agreed on one significant change to Kelly’s contract: he will stay on for two years instead of three before selectmen have to renew it.

Weare Selectmen Vice Chairman Tom Clow said the two years was a compromise between selectmen and some residents, who were pushing for Kelly to only stay on for one year before officials reconsidered his position.

Clow said if Kelly were to stay on for one year, selectmen felt it wouldn’t be enough time to make significant strides in the police department.

“That would not have accomplished our goal. Our goal is to establish consistency,” Clow said. “What we’re looking for is consistency and integrity. That’s what we’re getting.”

Kelly said he was glad to continue working with the department, saying “I’m happy they’re satisfied with the work we’ve (done).”

He spoke often about the accomplishments of his officers.

“The officers have demonstrated a real desire to be part and parcel of the community,” he said. “The successes our officers have had . . . is reflective of the very hard work they’ve put in.”

Clow called Kelly “an extremely professional” police chief and said he was what Weare needs after years of problems with the department. Those include the departure of Velleca last fall after he was accused of assaulting department secretary Jennifer Posteraro while trying to get her cell phone, which she later said contained evidence of a brief sexual affair between the two. In 2013, the department was also in the headlines for a fatal, officer-involved shooting after a botched drug sting.

But those events were rarely referenced by town residents who turned out to express their opinions at two public hearings on Kelly’s potential confirmation in the past few weeks.

Many of those residents said though they believed Kelly is an excellent chief, they were disappointed with the decision by selectmen to go ahead with a part-time chief before considering any potential full-time candidates.

Kelly is retired and collects a pension from the New Hampshire Retirement System. Because of this, he can only serve on a part-time basis, not going over 32 hours per week. He also lives more than 60 miles from town.

For those residents who are concerned Kelly lives too far away and won’t be accessible enough, he said that in the age of instant communication, he can always be in contact with officers who are on duty. In addition, Kelly said, he will soon promote someone in the department to lieutenant to have a second in command.

In the coming months, Kelly said department officials will continue to try to improve relations with the community. They plan to partner with the University of New Hampshire Survey Center in order to assess residents’ attitudes about policing and crime. The survey is optional and will be conducted anonymously, Kelly said.

The department will also hold open houses for residents to meet Kelly and the other officers.

“They don’t want to police the community, they want to be part of the community,” Kelly said of his officers. “That is reflective of how they go about their day-to-day business.”

Kelly will be sworn in June 20 at the Weare Middle School at 1 p.m. The ceremony and reception is open to the public.

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen)


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