If you were living in Milford in 1982, you could be forgiven for thinking that your town’s police department was coming apart at the seams. In the span of 12 months, the department had one chief of police resign for activities that led to a suspended sentence, another chief quit on the spot and a detective charge the Board of Selectmen with unfair labor practices and bias. It was a trying time for Milford’s finest.
With crime on the rise in 1982, no one in town could have been comforted by the Milford Cabinet’s April 22 headline: “Milford police chief resigns but the reasons remain an official secret.” While Chief Arthur Edgar claimed “personal reasons” for his departure, rumors suggested something more nefarious. Following two emergency executive meetings, the Selectmen asked the New Hampshire state attorney general to investigate “all events leading up to the resignation.” Edgar left office immediately while the minutes of the second meeting were mysteriously withheld from the public. That move was blasted by a Cabinet front-page editorial as “shabby treatment,” but the selectmen remained silent on the basis that “the information would affect a person’s reputation.” That person proved to be Edgar himself who eventually received a suspended sentence of six months for misappropriating $300 from the Milford Police Association.
Sergeant James Rasmussen, who took over for Edgar, also had a rocky reign, albeit for different reasons. While his integrity was never questioned, he was in a perpetual feud with the Board of Selectmen. Under pressure from an attorney general investigation of the department’s financial records and a controversial officer vote to form a union, he had trouble finding time for more mundane tasks such as outfitting the new cruiser or policing local beer parties. While in May of ’82, Rasmussen said he was “enjoying the challenges of his new duties,” less than eight months later, he resigned his office, citing “threats and intimidation” by the Board of Selectmen and describing long hours, inadequate pay, and the frustration of working for five different bosses. Officer Paul Bagley joined him in the race for the exit.
Salaries were clearly at the heart of low officer morale, as Milford cops were earning three to five thousand dollars a year less than nearby towns and the Selectmen and the new union were at a seemingly permanent impasse in negotiations. That union would be at the center of yet another simultaneous controversy involving the police and the Board. In April of 1982, the man who would temporarily replace Rasmussen, Detective William Eggers, charged the Selectmen with “unfair labor practices” and appealed to the State of New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board, producing yet another troubling front-page story. Eggers charged that he was denied a series of raises and overtime bonuses since being chosen by fellow cops to scout out a union in 1979. His chief witness, Richard McNamara, claimed that in conversation with Milford Selectman Walter Putnam at a Mont Vernon yard sale, Putnam had called Eggers an “agitating son of a bitch” who was “instigating a union down there.” While the Labor Relations Board cited a lack of evidence as they denied Eggers’ petition, it was yet another ugly episode and distraction for those trying to serve and protect.