By Alex Lippa
---- — ATKINSON — Rockingham County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Al Brackett is expected to be sworn in as the town’s new interim police chief today.
Sheriff Michael Downing said Brackett will serve as interim chief until the town hires a full-time chief.
The town asked the sheriff’s department to provide them with an interim chief, after Acting Chief Patrick Caggiano announced he was retiring at the end of the month .
“Selectmen wanted to pick a chief who was appropriate for the position,” Town Administrator Bill Innes said. “We have lots of good people in our department and we wanted to make sure that the officers we had were doing their job with as little disruption to their routine as possible.”
Brackett, 62, works part time with the sheriff’s department and will work on a part-time basis in Atkinson.
“Atkinson asked us for help,” Downing said. “They wanted to know if they had anyone qualified who can temporarily run their department. We have other part-time deputies who are more than qualified, so he’ll go down there and work until they find an adequate replacement.”
Brackett said yesterday he did not want to comment until he was sworn in.
Atkinson will pay Brackett while he leads their department. The money will come from the $31,000 which has been budgeted for the police chief’s position. Just more than $9,000 has been used this year.
Brackett started his career in Hudson as a patrol officer and later became the chief there. He then worked for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa, Fla., before coming back to New Hampshire in 2003.
He ran the sheriff’s department after former sheriff Dan Linehan resigned, serving until Downing was elected to the post.
Downing said this was the first time any police department has asked them to provide a chief.
“I’m not surprised by anything anymore,” Downing said. “I’m not sure how much notice they had and I know they’re actively searching for a replacement now.”
Caggiano’s official last day in Atkinson will be Dec. 28, but he is on vacation next week.
“(Caggiano) has said he will help through this transition,” Innes said.
The town is just starting to send out advertisements for the permanent position. Innes said the town will use the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police to help narrow down the candidates.
“The selectmen, besides one, don’t have the experience or knowledge of the job to work their way through it,” Innes said. “We want to make sure the candidates have the skills and background to move forward.”
The chiefs association will narrow the candidates down to three to five candidates before selectmen make the final call.
“We want to make sure we do it right and get the best possible candidate,” Innes said. “This process is clean and it’s nonpolitical. There’s also no cost to the town to go through this process, as opposed to a private vendor.”
The position has been part time in the past, but next year’s proposed budget will include money for a full-time chief. Innes said the salary of the chief has not been determined.