Entire town hears case of Pickering vs. Police Dept.
HAMPTON — About 40 supporters of the fired police officer Aaron Pickering stood in the raw spitting rain to gather outside of the town office Monday night carrying signs of “We Support Aaron,” as the Board of Selectmen prepared to hear the trial of the discharged DARE officer who had been fired for intoxication and conducting an unauthorized investigation and lying.
Selectmen Chairman Mary-Louise Woolsey had warned that there would be no rants in the small Selectman’s office, assigning seats to the persons who would testify, the police, and news media. “Watch channel 58,” she urged.
Outside, Pickering’s cousin Karen Brady and his brother, a fellow Police Officer said they felt a supportive crowd would have influence on the Board’s decision to support or reverse the decision of Police Chief William Wrenn and the agreement of Town Manager James Barrington to discharge the officer.
The cast of characters was many, producing a long hearing that began 6 p.m. Monday and ended 1 a.m. Tuesday. Joseph McKittrick [represented] Pickering and the Patrolman’s Association.
A stoic line of union officers led by Tom Linane, and the Association President, sat by while the Police Chief and his command staff were ready to testify before the Board of Hampton Selectmen. Police Officer Jamie Sullivan was the Sergeant at Arms assigned to keep order aided by Captain Victor DeMarco who had played a role in the investigation and subsequent firing of former officer Aaron Pickering.
What happened? Internal Affairs Officer Lieutenant Crott pointed out that on the afternoon of Sunday, November 17, 1996, then Officer Aaron Pickering had gone to the home of fellow officer Jim Patton where he had a “couple of beers” and watched the Patriots football game. Following the game, he picked up his father and they went to a Seabrook restaurant/bar where they had dinner, two beers with dinner and two after. They then went to Hampton Beach where they went into a night club and Pickering had two more beers. Leaving there they made one more stop where Pickering had admitted to having two “Jack Daniels” and water (or on the rocks?).
According to sworn testimony, Pickering took his father home and headed for his own home. For some reason that no one can explain, Pickering found himself on Locke Road where he decided to look for the home of a Hampton Academy Junior High youth who he had met through the DARE program. Pickering testified that he went there to find out the address of the youth so that he could loan him an appliance that would help him in his hobby of playing guitar. Pickering parked his truck around 9:00 p.m. between the house of Frank Shedd and the house next door so he could go and look at the street number on the house. This is when the trouble really began.
Mr. Shedd and his son drove in the driveway as Pickering stood in the shadows hoping not to be seen. Shedd who had been robbed shortly after moving into the home did see Pickering in the headlights of his truck and as he approached, Pickering ran around the back of the house and into the woods. Mr Shedd called to the “intruder” who finally came out of the woods identifying himself as Aaron Pickering and tried to calm the irate Frank Shedd. One of Shedd’s sons called the police and Officer Larry Barrett arrived and attempted to calm the argry Mr. Shedd.
When the report was made to Sgt. Maloney, the duty Seargent, Captain DeMarco was informed of the incident and Chief Wrenn was called at home. There ensued four hearings, an internal affairs investigation, a disciplinary hearing with the Chief, a re-hearing requested by Pickering and his council, and the hearing before the Board of Selectmen. Chief Wrenn and lawyer Dunn presented sworn statements by Pickering in which he told a different story each time.
Even in the Monday Board hearing, Pickering gave a different account of the amount of alcohol he had consumed that day and night, and could not explain why he was on the Shedd’s property. He had said or implied that he was following an investigation of alleged child abuse. He was not, according to police officers.
The attorney for Pickering tried valiantly to discredit the Internal Affairs investigation and the Chief, implying that the Chief was “after” Pickering because of his union activities and his drafting of a questionnaire that was meant to discredit Chief Wrenn. While attorney Dunn presented report after report of sworn testimony, McKittrick spent his rebuttal trying to discredit the Chief and his command staff.
Chief Wrenn presented a supreme court decision that upheld the firing of officers who do not tell the truth, while McKittrick, without naming the case, said that the Supreme Court allowed police officers to “say whatever they wanted, even lie.”
Board Chairman Mary-Louise Woolsley asked both lawyers to provide the case information to substantiate what they had said. She asked some hard questions of Pickering such as “What is your word’s worth?” and she held up evidence to a squirming Pickering who could only say that he was a good person and that his actions of that night were not typical of him, a person who had never been in trouble before.
The Selectmen will take the matter under advisement and either support or reverse the Town Manager and the Police Chief in the decision to fire Pickering. Chairman Woolsley said that he decision of the Board will be made public sometime today (Thursday) and that during the consideration period, there will be no further comment on the matter.
Atlantic News 6 February 1997