, Kingston, NH

February 9, 2012

Article 14 is Long Overdue

I am considering running for the position of either Kingston police officer or town constable in the upcoming March election. I am intrigued at the thought of flying through town at a buck-ten with blue lights spinning, sirens wailing and wig-wags flashing while trying to keep my portable drink mixer from tipping over. A Smash Mouth CD would have to blast at full volume in order to eliminate hearing any pesky calls to actually go and help someone.

Town Warrant Article 14 may kill the chances of fulfilling my bucket list dream.

It asks the voters to repeal RSA 41:47 requiring the election of two police officers and a town constable while adopting RSA 105:1 allowing the town to appoint officers through a rigorous screening process adopted by most progressive law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Even I have to admit Article 14 just makes sense as our current law actually represents a traditional standard of hire that dates back to the 1800's when we also elected surveyors of wood, bark and lumber, a town janitor, sealer of weights and measures, hog reeves and fence viewers. (see side bar)

We currently have a police department with 9 full-time and 4 part-time professionally trained cops, yet we still vote for three every year. The candidates for the past 20 years have all been 'already on the job' Kingston police officers. Their candidacy is merely a mechanical process of going through the motions to satisfy the law. The fact these positions are not challenged and always supported by the voters serves as further endorsement of the warrant article.

Article 14 is not designed to eliminate any police positions or take any voting power away from the public. Simply put, the current three-cop election process is just old school with repeal long overdue.

The hiring and training of Kingston police officers cost taxpayers $21,949.95 per appointment. Not all these monies come from the Kingston coffers, but taxpayer funded just the same.

The current police application selection criteria is based on state of the art police standards including detailed background checks, experience, psychological testing, a medical exam, physical agility tests and multiple interviews inclusive of an oral board panel consisting of various state law enforcement officials.

Once hired on a probationary basis these officers must complete an extended training program in the field, be provided with uniforms, salary, benefits and attend grueling 14-week stint at the Police Standards and Training Academy in Concord.

Theoretically and based on the current law, someone like me could be elected to the position of police officer or constable. Due to a voter approved budget, my successful election would definitely boot the cop we just spent all that money on right out of the job, even before their probationary period is over. Then I would cost the taxpayers another $21,949.95... And I am un-trainable.

Do not get me wrong. These elected positions were once essential back in the day. Qualifications were merely desire and a means of transportation. Period. The vetting system consisted of pot-belly stove chatter and tavern debates culminating in "yea" or "nay" vote during the town meeting.

Chief Briggs pitched the proposal to selectmen in a warrant article review public forum. He constantly reiterated that it in no way reflected an effort to preclude the voters any say in the police appointment process. I appreciate his consideration but it is not needed as logic and common sense alone suggest this old tradition needs to go the way of fence viewers and hog reeves.

Besides, if you do not support it I may just run for one of the police positions next year. And I just do not think this town is ready for me in a nitrous equipped, super charged, 671 BDS blown, tubbed, chopped, shaved cruiser with Hooker side pipe glass packs with a body adorned by AC Delco, Viagra and Hooters sponsor stickers.

Support Warrant Article 14. It just makes sense.

Jay Alberts