BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — Saying the Police Department needs an “outsider” to take control, Mayor Bill Scanlon has named a recently retired New Hampshire state police captain as the city’s new police chief.
John LeLacheur, 51, is the first police chief from outside the department in recent memory, if not ever, Scanlon said.
Scanlon said interim police Chief Chris Negrotti, a 28-year veteran of the Beverly department who was a candidate for the top job, withdrew his name from consideration and told Scanlon the department needed a fresh face to lead the way.
“After a time, (Negrotti) came to me and said, ‘There are just too many problems here. We’ve got to get an outside influence.’ And, frankly, I was pretty much of that viewpoint myself,” Scanlon said.
LeLacheur, a Manchester, N.H., resident who grew up in Lowell, said he is looking forward to moving to Beverly and starting his new job. He retired from the New Hampshire State Police on Nov. 1.
“We’re excited,” he said. “My wife and I were looking to get back to the seacoast area. It looked like a tremendous opportunity in Beverly, and I’m thrilled the mayor and the assessment board selected me for the position.”
LeLacheur began his law enforcement career as a police officer in Hudson, N.H., where he spent three years before becoming a state trooper in 1984.
He has served a variety of command roles in his nearly three decades with the New Hampshire State Police. He has been a member and commander of the State Police honor guard and developed and instituted a special-events response team.
LeLacheur has also been a drill instructor at the New Hampshire Police Academy and has taught leadership and media relations at the New England State Police Administrative Conference.
In 1999, he was awarded the New Hampshire State Police medal of valor for pulling a fellow officer to safety after his cruiser had been hit by rifle fire.
“This man has very valid experience,” Scanlon said. “He’s got energy. He’s been part of an organization (New Hampshire State Police), which has done good work. He grew up in Lowell, and he knows a lot about Massachusetts. He’s anxious to move to the area. I think he and Negrotti will work together well.”
The Beverly Police Department has had several high-profile problems over the last several years, including a murder-suicide involving a police officer’s son, and a police cruiser crash that killed a woman.
In a separate incident in September, officer Kevin Coletti was disciplined after crashing his police cruiser at 64 mph in a 30 mph zone and leaving the scene before a supervising officer arrived. Police have refused to disclose the disciplinary action, saying it is a personnel matter.
Scanlon said five current Beverly police officers applied for the chief’s job but were not among the five finalists. He said Negrotti would have been a finalist had he not withdrawn.
Scanlon said it can be difficult for a chief who comes from within the department to discipline officers he has worked alongside for years.
“Sometimes, you really need to start with a fresh slate, and I think there are some factions within the department,” Scanlon said. “I think we need a strong, experienced person in charge.”
LeLacheur said he will come to Beverly with an open mind and will talk to every police officer before making any decisions.
“Coming in from the outside and not having a bias can be a benefit,” he said. “The No. 1 thing I’m going to impress on them is integrity. That’s the backbone of law enforcement. I expect them to do the job, be honest about what you’re doing and be professional.”
LeLacheur was chosen from a field of more than two dozen applicants, including candidates from Texas, Illinois and Wisconsin. Scanlon said he, Finance Director John Dunn, City Solicitor Roy Gelineau and Human Resources Director Pauline Teixeira interviewed the applicants.
The finalists went through a day-and-a-half-long assessment by a team that consisted of Melrose Mayor Robert Dolan, Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke and retired Salem police Chief Robert St. Pierre.
Scanlon’s appointment of LeLacheur must be approved by the City Council. LeLacheur is scheduled to meet with the council on Tuesday.
Scanlon said he has agreed to a three-year contract with a salary of $127,000, the same salary made by Chief Mark Ray before he retired in September.
Scanlon did not seek re-election and will leave office in January. Mayor-elect Mike Cahill has said he has no problem with Scanlon appointing a new chief before he left office. Scanlon informed the City Council of LeLacheur’s appointment on Monday, the night before Cahill’s election.
Asked if this was the start of a new era for the Beverly Police Department, Scanlon said, “I believe so. I hope so.”
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.