SALEM, N.H. (CBS) – The conduct of the Salem, New Hampshire police officers involved in the tasing and arrest of a youth hockey coach is now part of a federal investigation, sources say. The FBI probe comes just months after an exclusive WBZ-TV I-Team report earlier this year.
The incident at the ice rink back in December 2017 is also mentioned in a recently released town audit by Kroll, a risk management company. In the report, Kroll says that the internal affairs investigation didn’t meet best practices and that undermined the integrity of the department. The report went on to say only witnesses who supported the police were interviewed and the officers were exonerated within 24 hours. Kroll wrote that type of investigation “can appear to be negligent and retaliatory.”
Michael Delaney, the former New Hampshire Attorney General, is representing the hockey coach, Bob Andersen who was arrested in the incident.
“You read this report and it conjures up images of the wild, wild west inside the Salem Police Department. Failing to investigate complaints, retaliation against witnesses that raised concerns, it’s really unbelievable,” he told WBZ.
This all unfolded last December when police were called to the Icenter in Salem after a contentious youth hockey game. The dispatcher told responding officers the caller said there was a fight involving parents.
Bob Andersen, the coach, told WBZ he was acting as a peacemaker, standing between two bickering parents when police arrived, pushed him to the ground and tased him several times.
“I could hear my son crying and screaming. I could hear my wife screaming,” he said.
Chis Albano, one of the parents at the game, was recording the incident on his iPhone. He and other witnesses filed complaints with the New Hampshire Attorney General supporting Andersen.
“He wasn’t fighting back or anything,” Albano said.
Weeks after Albano spoke out in an I-Team report, he was taken off a plane at Logan Airport and arrested.
Salem Officer Sean Wilson claimed Albano assaulted him months earlier at the hockey rink.
“I’ve never heard of it before in my four decades,” said Tom Nolan, a professor of criminology who spent more than 30 years with the Boston Police Department. “This is beyond the pale of what is appropriate and professional police conduct.”
In the police report Wilson wrote that night, he made no mention of being assaulted.
But, nearly six months after the incident, Wilson applied for an arrest warrant, signing under the pains and penalties of perjury, that after watching a WBZ-TV News report he recognized and remembered Chris hit his hand.
Larry Vogelman is a top civil rights attorney in New Hampshire.
“I’ve been doing civil rights cases since 1997. I’ve sued the Salem Police more than I’ve sued any other police department in the state,” he said.
Vogelman says many of the cases he won are mentioned in the audit that found the department violated its own policies and has a negative culture that discourages citizen complaints.
“Complainants were told, ‘You come in and sign under the pains and penalties of perjury and if you’re not telling the truth we will arrest you.’ It was blatant attempt to have people not make complaints,” Vogelman said.
The audit also recommends a complete overhaul of internal affairs.
“The findings of that audit report in my experience are highly unusual and very disturbing. The question becomes who’s gonna reign in the Salem police department,” Delaney said.
The police chief has said he disagrees with the allegations in the audit but will work with the town to implement the recommended changes to internal affairs investigations.
In addition to the FBI investigation, the New Hampshire Attorney General is also investigating the Christopher Albano arrest.