Police chief ‘overhauls’ policies amid Webber estate dispute (NH)

PORTSMOUTH — Questions about the city Police Department’s ethics, internal investigations and contact with the elderly have been raised during the past several years because of an officer’s $2.7 million inheritance and a pending court case to contest that inheritance, said Police Chief Stephen DuBois.

“I don’t want to give the impression that I’ve been sitting idly by, waiting for the outcome,” DuBois said Tuesday, while outlining plans to overhaul police policies and procedures and train police supervisors.

A trial is scheduled to begin Monday when a probate court judge will be asked to decide whether police Sgt. Aaron Goodwin exerted undue influence over the late Geraldine Webber, while she was impaired with dementia, to inherit most of her large estate. Depositions taken from police officials indicate that two internal investigations, into complaints about Goodwin’s contact with Webber, were not thorough. Police Capt. Mike Schwartz went as far as to say no interviews were conducted.

DuBois said he’s been working “on a complete overhaul of our policies relating to citizens’ complaints, internal affairs and discipline” and that changes will be implemented during the next couple of months. He said the overhaul has been in the works for months, but won’t be finished until after an investigatory panel, formed to review the Police Department’s role into Goodwin’s relationship with Webber, publishes a report of its findings. Those findings, said DuBois, will be incorporated into the new policies and procedures.

The changes, DuBois said, are not an admission of guilt or failure, but an opportunity to review the department “with a different lens.”

“It’s something we’re open to,” he said, while describing police policies as living documents that must adapt to societal changes, labor laws and best practices.

Also in an effort to “be a better public service,” DuBois said, he’s sending five of his supervisors, with a rank of lieutenant or higher, to Federal Bureau of Investigations training for conducting internal affairs investigations. The goal of the officers taking the training, he said, is to adopt “best practices we can put into play here.”

He said the FBI training will be conducted in Hampton, so those police managers will be nearby if needed.

DuBois said he’s also sending one of his captains to a three-week “senior management institute,” given by the Police Executive Research Forum, at Boston University. In addition, he said, the Police Department has ”supplied training for elderly mental health issues and ethics training” and participated in a Federal Trade Commission forum about scams targeting the elderly.  In June, he said, Portsmouth police officers will be trained to understand New Hampshire’s new financial exploitation law.

“We want to make those necessary improvements,” DuBois said. “We’re anxious to get there.”

Several sources have said that the investigatory panel continues to conduct investigations and its report is not scheduled for immediate release. The probate court trial is scheduled to last through the first week of May.

“We are anxious for the completion of the upcoming probate case and look forward to reviewing the materials the (retired Judge Stephen) Roberts task group provides,” DuBois said.

Attribution:

Police chief ‘overhauls’ policies amid Webber estate dispute
April 21, 2015
SeaCoastOnline.com
http://www.seacoastonline.com/article/20150421/NEWS/150429763

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