New police chief starts in Webster after previous chief sued town

  • New Webster police Chief Steve Adams sits in his office at the town’s public safety building last week. LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 4/1/2018 7:28:59 PM

Steve Adams was aware of the Webster Police Department’s history when he decided to take on the job of chief in the town.

“I was apprehensive at first,” Adams said. “I have friends who are police officers and chiefs going, ‘Are you out of your mind trying to take that job?’ ”

Webster’s last chief, Benedict Liberatore, sued the select board in November after having worked in Webster just a year. He accused select board members of micromanaging him and the department.

But in his first month on the job, Adams said, the residents he’s met at town meeting and select board meetings have made him confident in his decision.

“It’s been an eye-opener, since I’ve been here,” Adams said from his office on Battle Street on Wednesday. “Everyone I’ve met has been fantastic, and I really do like the town.”

Adams has had a 43-year career as a police officer in New Hampshire, with stints in Franklin, Tilton and most recently Northfield, where he was chief for seven years.

After retiring from Northfield in 2013, Adams worked at Riley’s sports shop in Hooksett and part time, one day a week for the Pittsfield Police Department.

But he’s wanted to return to a larger role in law enforcement for a while.

“I’m not the kind of person who can just sit around,” he said. “I like to be busy.”

Adams was one of the applicants considered for Webster’s chief in October of 2016 when Liberatore was selected. He was interviewed by the town oral review board, and considered “an equally strong candidate” to Liberatore, Webster’s Administrative Assistant Leslie Palmer said.

Liberatore left Webster in September after he was placed on administrative leave for failing to obtain his New Hampshire Police Standards and Training certification.

The select board said Liberatore also violated a number of other town policies, including not establishing residence within Webster and not following a work-hours policy in which only one on-duty officer be scheduled at a time to maximize coverage.

Liberatore filed a lawsuit against the town in November claiming the select board tried to force him to resign by placing him on unpaid administrative leave, but he dropped the suit in February.

After that, the town went straight to Adams, select board member Nanci Schofield said.

“We were lucky enough this time to be able to go back to him and find that he was both still available and still interested,” Schofield said.

Adams does not live in Webster, but he lives close by in Franklin.

“I’m local, really,” he said. “I live less than 15 minutes from the town.”

He has known Phil Mitchell, one of the town’s full-time officers, for more than 30 years. He said he’s noticed in other towns he’s worked in that it’s important to have someone local in the position of chief.

“The people who are born and raised here definitely have a different mindset,” he said. “Nothing against out-of-staters, but it just seems like residents in town really want someone from the local community. They just seem to feel safer with them.”

One of Adams’s first tasks as chief will be to hire two part-time officers.

The Webster Police Department has two full-time officers; Adams, who works 25 hours a week; and two part-time officers, but Adams was approved for two more.

“The plan is to try to get as many officers on the road for as many hours as we can,” Adams said.

Right now, he’s trying to get to know as many residents as possible. In the next couple weeks, he said, he will be holding a meet and greet with Webster residents at the town’s public safety building.

In the meantime, he’s giving his personal cell number to any residents who ask.

“I’ve got an open-door policy,” he said. “If they want me, all they have to do is call.”

Adams signed a three-year contract with the town of Webster. He will make $45,000 working 25 hours a week in addition to $31,143.72 in retirement benefits in the town of Northfield.

(Leah Willingham can be reached at 369-3322, or on Twitter @LeahMWillingham.)

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