Anything sketchy in former Keene PD chief departure?
This post was originally posted to CopBlock.org on May 15th, 2012.
Not too long ago a friend mentioned to me that man in Keene had gotten away with murder. From the conversation it was eluded to that the man had not been held accountable because he wore on his costume a “Keene Police Department” badge and a nameplate that said “chief.”
I sought to determine the accuracy of the claim because 1) if someone had in fact gotten away with murder I’d want to do what I could to help set the record straight and 2) if true, it’d only underscore the perverse incentives inherent in the way “law enforcement” is supplied (and thus encourage those faced with the information to consider alternatives, especially considering that the person who presently has Qualters old gig requested an armored vehicle from the Department of Homeland Security).
My investigation didn’t turn-up anything that substantiated or refuted the claim. If you have information that could help put this question to rest please let me know.
Still, I thought it wise to share an overview of the steps I took and the information gathered to make the process transparent and to perhaps acquire additional related information from someone with more knowledge.
I started where most would start – by doing some keyword searches on Google. The learned the departure of Thomas J. Qualters on February 12th, 1952 was both quick and without reason given.
On April 21st I went to the Keene library and reviewed the microfilm from Keene’s local rag, The Sentinel for that date and surrounding dates. The lone article that touched-on Qualters departure was sparse in details (pages 1-2 on Scribd document below).
A helpful woman working as a librarian assisted me in locating a couple books on Keene’s history, including In Pursuit of Justice written by a former KPD employee (pages 3-6, & 14 on Scribd document below. It made mention of Qualters previous work doing security for Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
I detailed the rationale for my search the librarian. Initially I had balked at doing so since I thought she may not be too eager to assist with research that might oust a former KPD employee. Instead, she noted that if Qualters had been involved in a murder, I probably wouldn’t find anything about it in the paper. That makes sense – most local papers, especially back in the day when competing sources of information weren’t as plentiful, tend to unquestioningly parrot the line given to them by government employees.
The librarian did give me a print-out of a related Google search she’d done (page 7 on Scribd document below), but it only provided other data points on information already known such as Qualters previous employment.
I left the library, rode to the police department (page 8 on Scribd document below) and spoke with a woman behind the thick glass of the Communications window who identified herself to me as “Balcom, dispatcher.” She wasn’t too friendly.
Balcom told me she’d been there for 22-years and wasn’t familiar with a “Qualters.” She spoke on the phone with someone she identified only as a “supervisor” who apparently said the same. Balcom also told me that no related documents were kept in-house but suggested that I may be able to request records on his employment from Human Resources at city hall or that I should come back during the week to talk with others.
On April 25th I returned to the police department and had a similar conversation at the Communications window with one of Balcom’s colleagues who told me he’d been there for 30-years but wasn’t familiar with Qualters nor anything related. I went next to the Records window about 15′ away and submitted to Jennette Casna New Hampshire’s version of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) called a 91-A Request (page 9 on Scribd document below). Casna indicated that it’d be sent to William “Bill” S. Dow in the Clerk’s Office.
I went home and did a bit more searching – I found a couple of people on a genealogy site who specifically mentioned that they were next-of-kin for Qualters and were looking to connect with people who had more information on his background (pages 10-11 on Scribd document below). I sent them an email but have not-yet heard anything back:
Brooke and Ryan,
I hope you’re both doing well. I came-across your email addresses from http://boards.ancestry.co.uk/
This admittedly may be the first time you’ve gotten such a query, but do you have any information that might provide evidence that former Keene PD chief Thomas J. Qualters was involved in a homicide?
I relocated to Keene somewhat recently and after a friend from the area eluded to such an incident, I went to the library and stopped by the police department and all I could find was that “his resignation came with unexpected swiftness” from the Keene Sentinal on 1952.02.13.
I’m a big advocate of transparency and don’t believe badges grant extra rights so if there is in fact any credibility I’d like to follow-up.
Thanks for your time,
On April 27th I received response signed by Dow (page 12 on Scribd document below) that began:
The nature of this right-to-know request is comprehensive and will require assistance from other Departments. It is our intent to take the time reasonably necessary to determine whether your request shall be granted or denied.
A few days later (apologies, I wasn’t thorough with this specific piece of mail) I received another letter from Dow that indicated that no homicides has occurred in Keene during the time-frame that I had outlined on the 91A Request (1951-1952) but that he’d located one related document about Qualters employment (page 13 on Scribd document below). I called Dow on May 7th and stopped by that afternoon.
I recorded the exchange and overall Dow was friendly and answered my questions. The lone document he had found was a form filled-out when Qualters was hired – signed by three individuals known as the “Board of Police Commissioners of Keene” that included a handwritten note on the top-left corner “Resigned Feb 14, 1952.”
Dow also had found a related newspaper mention from a Kingston, NY outlet (page 15 on Scribd document below) that only mentioned Qualters “resigned as police chief of Keene to enter private industry” and that he was being succeed by William T. Brigdham.
I found no conclusive evidence that confirmed or denied the claim communicated to me by a friend about the actions of a former “chief” of Keene police. Did Qualters get away with murder then simply quit – his secret hidden by the thin blue line? Or was Qualters resignation – a mere seven months after stepping-into that position, completely unrelated?
UPDATE: May 17th, 2012 – a friend informed of this post on Qualters started to look into the situation a little. I felt it worth sharing here the response that I sent as it shares a bit more information that I thought relevant to share here as I strive for transparency.
You asked which of my friends communicated to me the information that led me to look into Qualters – I can’t honestly recall. I interact with a lot of good folks. It was something told to me a couple of months ago that I only now made the time to follow-up.
Also, one thing Bill Dow, the records clerk at the Keene outfit (they are a gang) said, was that in his search to fulfill my 91A someone mentioned that they thought Qualters may have stepped-down quickly out of protest for some legislation. That he had been so unhappy or just wanted to make a statement that he left his position.
Perhaps the lead that’s the lowest hanging fruit is to see if communication with Herb Frank if possible. He supposedly worked with Qulters back in the day and is in Keene. http://youtu.be/2gTtHxBDdKk?t=