Following Police Chief John LaRoche’s August arrest on sexual assault charges, residents of Canterbury, New Hampshire have submitted a petition to disband the town’s police department and replace it with coverage by state or county law enforcement agencies.
The above-embedded WMUR-TV video notes that Chief LaRoche has been indicted on 10 felony counts in connection to allegations that he sexually assaulted a teenage girl over fifteen years ago while working as a police officer in Boscawen, N.H. The alleged victim was reportedly a participant in that department’s Explorer program aimed at showing youths what it would be like to be a law enforcement officer.
LaRoche pleaded not guilty to the charges and has been placed on unpaid administrative leave.
On Monday, locals submitted a petition at the meeting of the Canterbury Board of Selectmen calling for the town’s police department to be disbanded. According to The Concord Monitor, 106 residents signed the petition, well above the 25 mark required to force a vote on the issue.
“It’s probably not within the authority of the selectmen to dissolve the police department – that would be a town meeting thing,” said Board of Selectmen Chairman Bob Steenson, suggesting that the petition tactic may fail in its ultimate goal.
In addition to the allegations against Chief LaRoche, the approximately 70 residents at the meeting offered a variety of complaints about the town’s police force.
Petition organizer Joe Halla told WMUR-TV, “It’s apparent to me there is no supervision in the department. They are not responsible for their behavior. If there’s an SOP, they don’t follow it.”
Describing some of the complaints that were brought up at the meeting, the Concord Monitor’s Elodie Reed wrote, “Police suggesting the victim of a theft ask the suspected thief to meet with an officer; police telling a woman she had been ‘watching too much CSI’ when she asked whether fingerprints could be taken from a rock that was thrown through her windshield; police asking a person whether she really wanted them to look for her stolen car, which was an ‘older model.'”
Dozens of meeting attendees went on to share additional complaints about the four officers that make up the town’s police department.
Town officials say that until Chief LaRoche resigns, they are powerless to reform the police department.
Chairman Bob Steenson, who noted that the board is working to push LaRoche out of his position, said, “We’re making a renewed effort to see if we can move on and resolve the issue. John LaRoche needs to do the right thing and resign for this community.“