Croydon, New Hampshire – On February 18th, a police chief was made to walk home in nothing but his underwear, an undershirt, and boots after a three-member board voted unanimously to get rid of the local police department.
When you hear about how long he served his community, and his unceremonious ousting, it will boil your blood.
Former Croydon Police Chief Richard Lee had served as the only officer for the Croydon Police Department, being a resource for the town for almost 20 years.
This past Tuesday night, the Selectboard abruptly held a vote on whether to abolish the one-man police department.
The rationale for bringing the aforementioned up at the hearing was because the three-person board felt that the New Hampshire State Police would suffice in covering any calls in the town.
After 20 years as police chief, Richard Lee was told to immediately turn in his cruiser, gun and uniform. So he went into the office and began stripping down. https://t.co/wPpGehk3lf
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) February 20, 2020
Lee was a regular attendee at these meetings, and noted that he was completely caught off guard by the vote.
While Lee has had the subject addressed by the board previously, the motion to dissolve the police department last year was thwarted by voters last May.
Yet, the outline for this past Selectboard’s meeting only stated “police department” under the “new business” portion of the agenda.
After the board voted to abolish the police department, Selectboard Chairman Russell Edwards asked Lee to turn over all his police items – immediately. This included his badge, the keys to the cruiser he used to arrive at the meeting, and the very uniform he was wearing.
The former police chief described the moment:
“I was told that I had to turn over the keys to the cruiser and my uniform immediately. I had no other means of transportation, as the cruiser is a take-home vehicle, and I have no spare clothes in the office, so I did as ordered.”
After nearly two decades of service to his community, the man was stripped down to near-nothing and began to walk home in subfreezing temperatures.
After hoofing it for a mile in the cold, Lee’s wife picked him up and took him home. Lee remarked on his wife finding him walking down the side of the road:
“Someone called my wife… but I probably made it about three quarters of a mile before she got there.”
What Lee is struggling to find out is if he is either fired, or simply out of work to do, but still employed. Edwards from the Selectboard is simply saying this was a decision based on economics:
“We didn’t feel we were getting the value for our money.”
While it’s understandable to have to balance budgets in a town of 700 people, it’s interesting to see that the first one to be volunteered to “walk the plank” is the only police officer in town.
It would make one wonder if the three-person board didn’t consider downsizing to maybe a two-person board.
Then again, no one wants to vote away their own job, when it’s easier to cast aside someone else.
Two locals, Heather and Rick Sampson, have been attending the Selectboard meetings since Lee’s job and department were at risk last year. Rick Sampson believes that the display by the board this week shows a lack of character among them:
“What kind of a town lets their chief of police walk out in a snowstorm in his underwear?”
From what took place that Tuesday night, Lee is not only hurt – but he’s also confused about why it happened out of nowhere. After being humiliated, now Lee is plagued with emotions of self-doubt:
“If there’s something I was doing wrong, tell me. I can’t get anybody to answer the question.”
We, as people, should be better than this. Can economic issues affect the size or existence of police forces – they absolutely can.
Three cheers for Croydon Chief of Police Richard Lee. That's no way for any employer to treat someone who's served a community for 20 years. https://t.co/Q3dTXNSKwa
— DaniB (@DBattistella) February 19, 2020
Sadly, there are times where stations have to cut costs, reduce headcounts, and the ilk. However, just because those realities exist – it doesn’t mean that towns and elected officials should send people off with no measure of empathy or a dignified manner.
After almost 20 years, this former police chief should have had a momentous exit while being celebrated for his years of service. Instead, he was left humiliated, out in the cold, and given one month’s pay as a “severance package”.
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