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Bell, Coope vie for Police Commission seat

March 03, 2021
WOLFEBORO — Tom Bell and Shawn Coope, candidates for the open position on the Wolfeboro Police Commission, presented themselves to the voters during the Wolfeboro Area Chamber of Commerce's (WACC) Candidates' Night on Feb. 24. Questions submitted to the WACC addressed the addition of a Juvenile Services officer to the Police Department's roster, the move at the state level to increase law enforcement accountability, and warrant article #23 for purchase of a police vehicle.

To start, Bell said he would like to serve as a bridge between the Budget Committee, an office he has served and would like to continue serving on (Bell is running unopposed is on the ballot). He said he has a financial background, which would be put to good use as plans for a new public safety are further developed, and said as a member of around seven nonprofit organizations over the years, he has participated in building projects. Bell believes that his experience will complement the police commission, whose other two members have law enforcement experience.

Shawn Coope touted his 35 years of law enforcement and safety experience, including the positions of detective and police prosecutor, US Marshall Service, and serving as a terrorism liaison with the US Dept. of Homeland Security. He lives in Wolfeboro with his wife and two sons and is co-owner of a business in town.

Both candidates support the position of juvenile services officer recently added to the operating budget ($8,500) during the deliberative session. Bell said he'd like to encourage our youth to see police officers as friends, not enemies, and stated that he is not sure the County is up to it alone, a reference to some budget committee members' rejection of the position citing recent approval of additional prosecutorial services in the domestic violence arena at the county level.

"I've seen agencies use this quite well," said Coope, adding that it takes an extra level of education. "It is very, very important when a child is involved in the system at a very young age. I like idea of it. I can see the benefits of it...I have confidence in the chief to implement it properly."

Neither candidate was in favor of increasing the stipend for police commissioners, but both were in support of Warrant Article #23 for the purchase of a police vehicle at a cost of $57,077. Bell commented that there are now nine vehicles; eventually 11 are anticipated. Coope said the number of vehicles have to be sufficient to meet demand.

"It's not ideal to drive to the station to get a vehicle," he said, noting the time involved in doing so when an officer could be on duty immediately, ready to respond, if a vehicle was in the driveway at home.

Coope commented that Chief Rondeau is "prudent" with the use of the vehicles, evidenced by vehicles used for 10 years in excess of 100,000 miles. "You have to consider safety and reliability," said Coope. Bell added that various alternatives, such as leasing, were all considered by the budget committee.

Coope answered a question on the work of the state's Law Enforcement Accountability Committee to be reported on in June, as to reallocation of resources with a statement, that "When a group feels disenfranchised, we need to respond...law enforcement evolves constantly. We need to make changes as necessary."

"We are fortunate to have an engaged community and department," said Bell. "They all care, I know that for a fact. Defunding is not the answer."

The polls will be open on March 9 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Martin Lord & Osman
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