Board sends Bethel's last police officer off with thanks and bonus
Bethel's four decades of self-policing came to an end Wednesday afternoon.
When his shift finished at 3, Lt. Shayne White, the Bethel Police Department's sole remaining officer, drove the BPD cruiser to the town garage, then returned in his own car to the Town Office, where he turned in his radio and keys.
His beat of the past six years was now being covered by deputies from the Oxford County Sheriff's Department.
White kept his service pistol, which town selectmen had agreed to sell him, and his badge.
And he walked away with a severance package of $7,212.
The amount of the package had been decided by the selectmen at specially called meeting Monday evening.
The brief meeting was notably free of the contention and hard feelings that marked much of Bethel's discussion of police coverage over the past year.
The vote to approve the package was unanimous, and the figure the selectmen agreed to included a $2,400 bonus, offered in recognition of White's performance throughout that difficult time.
Town Manager Jim Doar credited White: “for stepping up in the last year to really run a police department when there weren't really a lot of “options” -- for lack of a better term.
“I don't think it could have been done without him, given all the turmoil that was going on,” the town manager said.
Selectman Don Bennett proposed the $2,400 bonus figure, which was based on $200 a month for that year.
“An additional amount per month for his last year of service to this community, which has been truly special service,” Bennett said, “doing the work of a police chief and doing many extra hours to keep our town served and protected.”
Bennett pointed particularly to the difficulty of staffing and managing the department over that year, as well, for White, “as the pure anguish of not knowing whether you've got a job or you don't.
“Trying to work with Jim and make a schedule, when you got guys who say they want to come and work, and then they don't show up.
“And you've got guys who you worked hard to bring in,” Bennett said, but who ultimately “have just jumped ship.”
“What the ...”
But Selectman Bob Everett said he was initially skeptical about a severance package.
“My first thought was: 'What the hell are we doing that for?'” Everett said.
“I'm sure we've had other people we've laid off in the past for various reasons, and we didn't give them severance packages.”
But then, Everett said, he began to consider that neither White nor the town's law enforcement had “skipped a beat” over that period.
“Times are hard and money is not easily acquired,” he told White, “but I thought that things went well with just a one-horse outfit.
“To pull that off for six months or eight months, that's a pretty neat trick,” said Everett, who for many years served his country in a different blue uniform. “I know how to do watch bills and stuff like that, and it's not easy.”
Board Chairman Stan Howe also thanked White.
“I've been quietly very nervous about this period of time,” Howe conceded, “because anything could happen, but I think you held it together, and I think it's a tribute to you that one of the things that did happen is that nothing adverse happened.”
“I think it's well within the bounds of propriety that we offer you this,” Howe said.