Police chief stripped of job and uniform walks out in his underwear

Most cops in movies get fired in the same way: someone tells them to hand in their badge and their gun. They do it, then storm out.

That’s only part of what happened to Richard Lee, the now-former police chief in Croydon, N.H. Town officials eliminated his one-man police department on Tuesday and demanded he immediately turn in his badge and gun, along with his cruiser keys and his police uniform.

So he did.

The nearly 20-year veteran stripped down to his underwear and boots right in front of the board chairman who oversaw his dismissal. Then, he marched out of the Croydon board meeting and started walking home in a snowstorm. His wife ultimately picked him up a mile down the road.

“I was told that I had to turn over the keys to the cruiser and my uniform immediately. I had no other means of transportation, as the cruiser is a take-home vehicle, and I have no spare clothes in the office, so I did as ordered,” Lee told the New Hampshire Union Leader.

“I gave them my uniform shirt. I gave them my turtleneck, I gave them my ballistic vest,” Lee said. “I sat down in the chair, took off my boots, took off my pants, put those in the chair, and put my boots back on, and walked out the door.”

Lee says he turned in all his official gear immediately — even though he didn’t have a change of clothes — because he didn’t want to risk walking out with it and being arrested.

Lee served as the town’s only police officer and prosecutor for nearly 20 years, although he faced some political tension with the town’s governing board in his latter years.

Town officials had tried to eliminate his position last year but the effort was voted down. The position was said to cost the town US$40,000 at the time, the Union Leader reports.

City leaders brought the issue up again on Tuesday and made the decision on the spot, the paper reports. The New Hampshire State Police will cover the town of 700 people from now on. State police were previously providing 81 per cent coverage.

“We didn’t feel we were getting the value for our money,” board chairman Russell Edwards told the Union Leader.

A draft of the meeting minutes shows that the board voted unanimously to give Lee one month of severance pay.

Lee says he’s still not sure whether he’s been fired or if he’s simply “out of work.” He says he was about 18 months away from retirement.

He added that he is discussing the situation with his attorney.

“If there’s something I was doing wrong, tell me,” Lee said in an interview with Valley News.

“I can’t get anybody to answer the question.”

With files from The Associated Press

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